Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock carries about as impressive a coaching resume as there is in the National Hockey League. He has won both the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal behind the bench.
When the Nashville Predators realized that captain Shea Weber was not going to be able to play in Monday night’s tilt against the Red Wings, the Predators recalled Ryan Ellis, the team’s top pick (11th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
After having coached the perennially offensively strong Red Wings for the past six seasons and that 2010 gold medal winning Canadian Olympic squad, Babcock knows a good power play when he sees it. Relatedly, he knows what it takes to be a strong piece of a good power play.
Following Monday night’s 4-1 Detroit victory, Babcock was effusive in his praise of Ellis, who made his NHL debut in the contest.
When asked if Weber’s absence from the Nashville lineup changed his team’s approach on the penalty kill, Babcock launched into a soliloquy of praise for the young Ellis. Babcock has first-hand knowledge of what Weber can do on the power play, as Weber was a member of that gold medal winning team in Vancouver.
“The kid they brought up is as good as there is in hockey on the power play, so he’s no slouch,” Babcock said. “He doesn’t have the bomb that Weber has but he has all those other things. He’s very deceptive, he can really see, he has ice water in his veins, and he is a great player. He’s going to be a dominant power play guy in the National League. For a skinny little kid, he can sure shoot the puck. He had a bomb off of the crossbar and he is a good player.”
While the Predators were scoreless in their five opportunities on the power play, Ellis played more than half (5:31) of the ten minutes they had with the man advantage. Nashville managed just five shots total on their five power plays.
Ellis was credited with three shots on goal in his 18:13 of ice time in the game.
Ellis’ own coach liked what he saw as well.
“He was pretty good,” Barry Trotz said. “I didn’t know what to expect quite honestly – a) with the Wings, and b) with the youth of our pairs. I think with the power play, he was trying to be a little too cute early and then he started shooting. The mandate I like to stay with is calling up guys that deserve to come up versus guys we want to call up. That has to be something that is a part of your organization. “
Depending on the severity of Weber’s upper-body injury, Ellis could stick around for a while. He has big skates to fill. Entering Monday the Predators had the NHL’s second-best power play at 22.5 percent. Weber is obviously a big part of that power play, leading the team in power-play goals with five and is tied for the team lead in power-play points with 13.