The Florida Panthers saw the departure of Jay Bouwmeester this summer and in the wake of that they’re in need of help on defense, Keaton Ellerby is well aware that an opportunity awaits him in September.
I had the chance to talk to Ellerby this weekend and he stated, “They’ve told me that I have a good shot this year, just go in and have a good training camp and good preseason.”
Keaton Ellerby was drafted in the first round (10th overall) by the Florida Panthers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, something he shares in common with Bouwmeester – being a first round pick. Bouwmeester was drafted in the first round (3rd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
After he was drafted Ellerby had the chance to tryout but was cut from Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. That wasn’t something that had a negative impact. I asked Ellerby if he ever thought from then until now he’d be considered a potential to make the Panthers roster he said, “When i got drafted i knew i had the chance of making it somewhere down the line. It was exciting, a good opportunity for me.”
Ellerby spent his first pro season with the Rochester Americans where he played in 75 games putting three goals and 20 assists on the scoreboard. He started out the season pretty rough around the edges but progressed throughout the season. His rookie stats weren’t too bad for playing on a team that ranked 28th out of 29 in the American Hockey League.
The defensive core of Ellerby, Jason Garrison, Michael Caruso, and Jordan Henry played a large role in the poor play of the Amerks last season at times. They also deserve credit for improved play throughout the season that helped the season turnaround. The problem was that they were often inconsistent and also outplayed physically by faster and stronger skaters.
I spent more time watching Amerks practices last season than I should probably admit, but one of the key things that Amerks coach Benoit Groulx consistently stressed was showing up and working hard every day.
Keaton agreed that was one thing he learned from last season, “I’ve gotta work hard everyday, it’s something i have to take into this season and throughout the year as well. That was one of the things that was stressed a lot in Rochester last season by Benoit. You can’t take any days off. I have to work hard everyday, put in the time off the ice and on the ice. That’s a big thing i have to take in for this season.”
Consistency is one piece of the puzzle, playing physical is the other. “I’ve been going to the gym at least five or six times a week, pretty intense,” Ellerby said. “Getting stronger is the main thing, put on some size. I’ve been working on getting a little bit bigger and stronger.”
The Panthers were the first team to hold their development camp back at the beginning of June, it was also the first time a number of the players had been back on the ice since the season had ended. It wasn’t the first development camp for Ellerby who said, “They pushed us pretty hard there. It was a good camp, went really well.”
“Now I’m excited for starting again back in Florida on September 6th,” he said. With that only two weeks away Keaton said he would be skating every day this week and next week to be ready.
It’s the dream of every kid who loves hockey to play in the NHL, and for a first round draft pick it’s even more of a reality. That reality gets closer every day for Ellerby who seems to be taking it all in without any expectations. “I’ve just been working hard to get where i want to be. I’m going to go in, do my best and see what happens,” he said.
Keaton Ellerby is still young, is still learning, and if he’s ready to assert himself every day he’s going to develop into a great NHL player. All eyes will be on him in two weeks as players start gathering in Florida to prepare for the start of training camp.
Two more things:
On the changes with the Amerks this summer – Ellerby said that Rory Fitzpatrick has kept him tuned in to what’s been going on regarding the older guys signed and changes in management (Ted Nolan). A welcome change compared to the young team that was setup to play at this time last year.
Ellerby is related to Shane Doan, captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, they’re cousins. So I asked if he’d talked to Doan about the status of the Coyotes and what he thought of Hamilton. Ellerby laughed and said he hasn’t really talked to Doan much but stated, “I don’t think he’d be very impressed with going to Hamilton.”