One way to kill some time in quarantine is to intensely analyze every player on the Predators' roster... right?
For these analyses, I'll be dissecting the aspects of any given Pred's offensive and defensive games, their overall on-ice effectiveness and influence on the team, eventually culminating it by giving them a grade for their 2019-20 performance. To add a wacky twist, I'll be going through the players by sweater number.
First up is the leprechaun himself, Ryan Ellis. Ellis was drafted 11th overall by the Preds in 2009, and over the last couple seasons, Ellis has quietly become one of the NHL's most underrated defensemen. He had a career-record season in 2018-19, tallying seven goals and 34 assists for 41 total points, as well as recording an excellent +21 on-ice rating.
Even after missing 20 games this season due to the Corey Perry-caused concussion he received during the Winter Classic, the Hamilton, Ont. native is still on pace to surpass the personal best he set last year. As of the NHL season pause on Mar. 12, Ellis had racked up eight goals and 30 assists- putting him just four points shy of a new career record. If the league is to carry out the remainder of the regular season after the pause, Ellis will have generated some of the league's best individual numbers after playing just 75 percent of the season.
If you were picking teams in backyard hockey and Ryan Ellis was on the line waiting to be selected, you'd snatch him up as soon as possible, because he is going to find a way to the net. Ellis has played 49 games this season and has already produced 862 Corsi-For, a metric that totals shots, blocks, and misses generated by a single player. No other NHL player who has played fewer than 50 games this season is even coming close to Ellis; Toronto's Morgan Rielly, who would be ranked just after Ellis, has 817 CF in 47 games.
Skating on a rush with Ellis is like winning the lottery. The 29-year old is contributing an average of 3.3 offensive point shares per game, meaning his offensive production directly yields over three points per game for his linemates.
The Preds have the luxury of being able to pair two of the NHL's premier defensemen- Ellis and Roman Josi- on a line together. And it pays. The dynamic Ellis-Josi tandem ranks third among all NHL defensive pairs in total CF generated, with 860 CF and counting. Oh yeah, and they've only played 49 games together. The next-best tandem with fewer than 50 games under their belt is Carolina's Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton, who are sitting at 762 CF.
Of the very few things Ellis could improve on, there's one metric that lurks in the shadows with which Ellis is having trouble this season. The team's save percentage while Ellis is on the ice (oiSV%) is 88 percent- the lowest oiSV% Ellis has accrued over his entire career. Ellis' redemptive qualities vastly outweigh this one detractor, however.
Ellis is simultaneously recording his lowest Fenwick-Against (FA) total of his entire career, which is a count of the total shots and misses taken against a specific player. This means that Ellis is largely preventing opponents from creating offense while he's on the ice. The Fenwick metric shares a lot of similarities with Corsi, in which Ellis is also currently setting a career-best. Even in the 2017-18 season, when Ellis played only 44 games, his CA and FA counts were higher than they are right now.
GENERAL EFFECTIVENESS AND TEAM INFLUENCE
Ellis is the quintessential "team guy", exemplified best by his signing of a bargain contract in August of 2018. The eight-year contract pays him $6.25 million per year, which even Ellis admitted was a steal for a player of his caliber. But the glue that held it all together was Ellis, David Poile, and the entire Preds team's common goal: win a Cup with the players we have and to not break the bank in the process.
A benevolent, humble guy who consistently finds ways to help his teammates score is a guy you need around the locker room for years to come. Ellis was born and bred in the Preds' system and signing a long-term, team friendly deal in 2018 further solidified his loyalty to the organization.
Ellis came up through Milwaukee alongside Josi, Austin Watson, and Craig Smith. He's also been selected for two of Canada's IIHF World Championship rosters, playing alongside Kyle Turris in 2014 and co-captaining the 2016 team with Matt Duchene.
2019-20 SEASON GRADE: A