For the past several years many of the Florida Panthers first round picks have been defencemen, with the exception of Nathan Horton, Anthony Stewart and Rostislav Olesz. Keaton Ellerby was the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft and was taken for his height, skating ability and passing skills. All attributes that seemed to mirror that of another defenceman that is now no longer with the team, Jay Bouwmeester. Ellerby even wears Jay’s old number four, which I kinda wish he didn’t.
Ellerby has been slow to develop for a first rounder as he’s seen limited action prior to this season. He played in 22 games for the Panthers last year, being recalled quite a few times to fill in for injuries, never staying too long, and never playing all that much. At times he looked like a rookie where the game was just too fast for him. His reaction time was slow, his movements were at times timid, therefore making him seem to lack confidence.
Ellerby is tall at 6′ 4″ and needs to use his size and speed to be effective. Putting on some weight will help as I think he brings an element that Jay didn’t have. My opinion is that Ellerby is capable of playing with more edge than Jay. If Keaton uses his size to place some hard checks, and clear some players out of the crease, he’ll be a more valuable defender to us, to go along with his offensive skills.
Fast forward to this season and I think you’d agree that finally the maturation process has begun and we’re seeing what we expected to see when he was drafted. Ellerby had a very good training camp, but because of numbers didn’t make the team. he was back and forth a bit from Rochester, but since the injury to Bryan McCabe, and now Dmitry Kulikov, it looks as though he’s here to stay. His passes are sharper, his hits are with more jam, and his head seems to be on straight.
Ellerby has played 31 games so far this season and his ice time is picking up as he’s being used in more sitaution than in the past. I think that wht more he plays, the more confident he’ll become and we’ll see his game develop. Defencemen are sometimes fickle in their developement. It takes some longer to develop than others. It’s not an easy position to play and there’s a ton of responsibility that goes along with it. I think that finally Ellerby is ready to emerge as a full time NHL defenceman. If he’s paired next season with Erik Gudbranson, those two boys are gonna become quite the pair.
So, your thoughts on Ellerby?
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