Ryan Ellis will miss the first several months of the season.
The Nashville Predators and general manager David Poile announced on Thursday afternoon that defenseman Ryan Ellis underwent offseason knee surgery and will miss the first ‘several months’ of the 2017-18 season. Poile stated that the recovery time for this type of knee injury takes four to six months, but he and the team doctors think it will take the full six months to recover. The estimated time of return the team gave was ‘around the start of the new year.’
There isn’t any other way to put it, this is a big blow to the Nashville blue line. Ellis posted career-highs in both goals scored with 16 and total points with 38 a season ago. He also posted a career-high in average ice-time skating 23:57 per contest which put him third on the team behind only Roman Josi and P.K. Subban.
The 26-year-old also skated in all 22 of Nashville’s playoff games last season netting five goals and adding eight assists.
— Mark Harris (@TweetsByHarris) May 13, 2017
If he does return to the lineup when Poile suggested, around the new year, Nashville could be without him for 30+ games of the 82 regular season. Nashville’s first game of 2018 will be at Las Vegas on Jan. 2 which is game 39 of the year.
The facts are that Ellis is recovering from a knee injury and with that he will miss an extended period of time to begin the season. Now the questions that arise are who will slide into the lineup and how will it affect the defensive pairings?
The Predators did address this situation this offseason by trading a 2019 third-round pick to the Golden Knights for defenseman Alexei Emelin. When that trade was made it left the majority of the hockey world scratching its head, but now it makes a bit more sense. Poile stated on Thursday that the possibility of Ellis missing an extended period of time like this was one of the reasons Nashville went out and acquired Emelin.
Emelin, a left-handed shot, could be a very real option to play alongside P.K. Subban. Either way you split the projected top-four defensemen to start the season you have one right-handed shot in Subban and three left-handed shooters in Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Emelin.
The 31-year-old has played his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens and tallied two goals and eight helpers in 76 regular season games a year ago. He logged a new career-high in average ice-time of 21:19 last season with the Canadiens as well. He has experience playing with Subban when the two were both Canadiens.
It will be interesting to see Emelin in the Predators’ fast, pinching and up-tempo style they like to push with their blue line.
While Emelin is the most likely player to be featured in Nashville’s top-four with the absence of Ellis, he will have serious competition throughout training camp and the preseason to see who ultimately gets the spot and the majority of playing time.
Yannick Weber is another right-handed defenseman that played 73 regular season games for Nashville last season on the third pair. As far as a prospect goes, Alexandre Carrier may be the one name to keep an eye on. The 20-year-old registered six goals and 33 assists 72 regular season games with AHL Milwaukee in what was his first season on North American ice a year ago. The right-handed blue liner also played in two games for the Predators last season making his debut on Sept. 16.
The Predators have Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto, both left-handed defensemen, on one-way contracts to consider also.
Heading into training camp this will without a doubt be the biggest storyline surrounding the Predators as to who will emerge as the favorite to fill Ellis’ void as best they can.
Nashville’s season gets underway on Thursday, Oct. 5 as the Preds take on the Boston Bruins away from home.