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Habs Top 25 Under 25: #25 - Morgan Ellis

We begin our look at the top 25 Canadiens players under 25 with Morgan Ellis, a defenseman playing in Cape Breton of the QMJHL. Ellis is described as a strong defensive defenseman with good staking ability.

Bruce Bennett

Writing about some of these prospects in the bottom part of our rankings is fairly tough.  Truth be told, there isn't a lot of material out there on defenseman Morgan Ellis, Montreal's fourth round draft pick in 2010 (117th overall).  He played for an awful team in 2010-11 and as a result the statistics that we have available for him aren't too generous.  He wasn't highly rated in the 2010 draft, and most of the previews from that draft did nothing more than give him a rank on their list.  At this point in his career, the only hockey fans that probably know of Morgan Ellis are Maritimes-based QMJHL followers and hardcore Habs fans.  Well, I've never made it to Canada's east coast (though its on my list of places to visit), but I am a hardcore Habs fan, so I guess my qualifications to write on Morgan Ellis are better than most.  Ellis received a single vote from our panel last year, but made four of our eight panelists lists this year to sneak in to the not so coveted 25th spot on our ranking.


Strengths: Again, we are dealing with very limited reports on this young man, so it's probably best to leave any thoughts about projecting his talent level aside for now.  Chris Boucher, in his one game scouting report on Ellis, remarked about his smooth skating ability, with "strong crossovers while skating both forward and backward."  Boucher also gave him a positive grade for the game, even against a tough opponent he managed to win most of his individual battles.  His six power play goals this past year led Cape Breton defenders in that category, as did his 131 shots on goal (just over 2 per game).  Despite his -27 rating this past year, the real strength of Ellis' game is in his own zone.  He's a physical player with good size, strength and he has been lauded for his leadership abilities.  Indeed, he was named captain of Cape Breton this past year, and 18 year old players don't often get that distinction.  A draft profile on him on YouTube has his coach, Mario Durocher, lauding his fearlessness and willingness to block shots.  Judging from other comments on that video, it looks like Ellis listened to his coach and scouts with regards to shooting the puck more and becoming more involved offensively.

Weaknesses: With so little out there in terms of scouting reports, there's actually even less comments that are negative about Ellis as a result.  Almost every report is modestly positive, so weaknesses must be inferred or taken from statistical sources.  While he did fire a lot of shots on goal in 2010-11, he was relatively ineffective in generating scoring chances with his shot.  The QMJHL tracks 'Dangerous Shots', and of Ellis' 131 total shots, only 15 were determined to be a genuine threat to reach the back of the net.  That is an incredibly low total, which doesn't bode well for his offensive game going forward.  Clearly, if he's going to make it as a professional, it's going to be due to smart, simple defensive play.

I've already alluded to it previously, but I can't emphasize enough how bad of a team Cape Breton was.  For whatever you want to take out of a +/- stat, it should be noted that Ellis was already a -20 by the end of December, and improved after the QMJHL trade deadline to be a -7 the rest of the way as Cape Breton clawed for the final playoff spot in the league.  In the QMJHL, to miss the playoffs your team has to be pretty much horrible in every aspect.  Cape Breton made the playoffs with an 18-45-1-4 record, with a -122 goal differential, second worst in the league.

Ellis was his team's top defenseman, and as such, bore the brunt of the tough assignments.  It wasn't a pretty season by any means, but I think it can be regarded as a successful one from an individual standpoint, even though it must have been incredibly frustrating for the young captain.  In the playoffs, Ellis was a -4 in 4 games without a point, as his team only managed to score twice against the eventual Memorial Cup Champions Saint John.  It is noted here that his 3 Dangerous Shots in that series was good for a tie for second on his team.

We likely won't know too much more about Ellis until he turns professional, and I think there's a decent enough package here to think he'll be getting a contract offer from the Canadiens next spring.  Until then, one can only hope there will be a few more things to be happy about as he plays out what likely will be his final major junior season.

BONUS!: You can follow Morgan Ellis on Twitter @MorganEllis4

Introduction #25: Morgan Ellis #24: Daniel Pribyl