Ryan Ellis is the epitome of the phrase, “size doesn’t matter.”
Listed as 5’10”, the slick skating Windsor Spitfires defenceman has heard his whole life that he is too small, and quite frankly, he doesn’t care.
“Anytime someone points that out, it doesn’t bother me too much because I’ve proved a lot of people wrong. I think that a lot of people are starting to see that size isn’t everything,” said Ellis. “I think just improving each and every day, laying hits and doing the things that you wouldn’t expect from a little guy is something key and something I want to continue to work on.”
Ellis became a household name in Canada after he was the only 17-year-old to be selected to the World Junior Championship team out of training camp. Playing with older kids was not intimidating for Ellis as he played up two age groups growing up in Belmont, Ontario. He was expected to be Canada’s seventh or eighth defenceman on the depth chart, but that didn’t last long.
In Canada’s first game, Ellis had three points and went on to record seven points in six games while quarterbacking the team’s power play. Ellis said that playing in the tournament had a special meaning to him not just because of the chance to represent his country, but because he along with many other young kids, grew up watching the tournament at his grandma’s house during the holidays.
If everything goes to plan, this upcoming Christmas, Ellis’ parents may be getting an early present.
“I think if I sign [an NHL contract] the first thing I’m going to do is buy my parents some new garage doors,” laughed Ellis. “I left a good beating on them and a couple holes here and there. At a certain age my dad told me I had to start using a ball instead of a puck and for the garage doors’ sake, I think he was right.”
This year Ellis showed that it’s not just his size and points that seem to be maturing, but also his hockey smarts. Coaches in the Western Conference voted him the smartest player in the conference, a recognition that Ellis puts at the top of the list of his achievements.
“That’s one of the awards in the league that I wanted to win. I think it’s great winning the others – the hardest shot and the best offensive defenceman – but to be known as the smartest player is something special,” said Ellis. “There are a lot of great players in our conference and to be known as the smartest is probably the most prestigious award I could have one.”
His smarts also happen to be the biggest thing NHL scouts are drooling over. Ellis is ranked 16th overall by the Central Scouting Service heading into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft; a draft that Ellis is excited for but still realizes he has a lot of work to do in preparation of.
“I just have to have a solid off-season, working out is key, I need to get stronger and quicker. Just to play at that next level I need to improve off the ice first,” said Ellis. “Then whatever team hopefully does draft me, having a solid shot to make that team is what I want and to make a good impression on them.”
Ellis has certainly made a good impression on people thus far, receiving accolades from Bobby Orr and drawing comparison to three-time Stanley Cup Champion Brian Rafalski. If he continues to play the way he has this year in the upcoming Memorial Cup, this small kid from a small town in southern Ontario, may just become a very big deal in the NHL.