Predators sign 2009 top draft choice

Monday, October 19, 2009 at 11:25am

Ryan Ellis’ right wrist was in a splint Monday morning, but his hands and fingers still functioned well enough for him to sign his first professional contract.

The Nashville Predators’ top pick in the 2009 draft (11th overall) came to town to have his injury examined by team doctors. When he arrived, the contract was waiting.

“It kind of worked out that way,” he said. “I’m glad that it did happen, and so soon in the season. It relieves a little bit of pressure and kind of makes you realize your dream is that much closer.”

It remains at least a year away, however.

Despite Nashville’s struggles through the first seven games (2-4-1, nine goals scored) there is no plan for the 5-foot-9, 180-pound defenseman to begin his professional career this season.

Once he is healthy, he will return to action with his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. Under the terms of the deal, whenever he does begin his professional career his rights will belong to the Predators for the first three seasons.

“He can think the game and he can perform the skills at the NHL level,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… Physically, he’s not close enough to play in the NHL.

“We’re trying this year and all next summer to get him stronger. If he gets his strength and all his power to the NHL standard then he has a good chance to play in the NHL quicker than later.”

Ellis has played in just seven of 13 games for Windsor this season. He had 10 assists and a plus-8 rating before he sustained the injury, which has been classified as a “wrist contusion.” Before he was returned to the junior ranks he appeared in one NHL preseason camp with the Predators.

He expects to miss up to two more weeks.

“I noticed (during a game) it was acting up whenever I twisted or what-not,” he said. “I taped it up and finished the game, but once my adrenaline wore off (I had) a lot of pain, a lot of agony.”

The signing of Ellis means that Nashville’s last four first-round draft picks all are under contract with the team. Only one of the four, center Colin Wilson, currently is in the NHL.

“I have to get better,” Ellis said. “I know what I have to do. They’ve helped me along the way and I just have to do it. I think signing is just kind of another step in the right direction. … I think it kind of lets you settle down and just play hockey. You don’t have to worry about the little things.

“You have everything now, and the next step is just to play the game here.”

Whenever that might be.