With the Jets struggling in the standings, and facing four injuries to depth defenders, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has taken action the way we’ve come to expect. The Jets claimed defencemen Keaton Ellerby off waivers from the LA Kings.
Ellerby gets reported often as a former 1st round pick, but it should be noted it was 10th overall in 2007 to the permanently re-building Florida Panthers. Despite quietly accumulating 160 NHL games, Ellerby has never lived up to his pedigree.
Inside we’ll look at what Ellerby brings to the Jets.
Who is Keaton Ellerby?
Ellerby is a monster of a man, officially listed at 6’5", 220lbs.
In his Junior career, Ellerby was known as a defensive defenseman. His best offensive season came in his final over-age season, when he scored a whopping 23 points in 53 games. Ellerby was a minus player in Junior, and earned criticism for his lack of discipline.
Still, he went 10th overall as a raw prospect, someone who would do much of his development post-draft. Big-bodied young men often take more time to develop and put together their physical skills, and it wasn’t until Ellerby turned pro with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans that he started to show promise.
In the AHL, Ellerby earned a reputation for using his size and strength with discipline. His offence remained sparse, but in 150 AHL games, he managed 47 points on a mostly poor club. He was an impact defender at that level.
Now 24, Ellerby is an NHL journeyman whose career is unfolding not unlike Adam Pardy’s. Two seasons split between the AHL and NHL, a season of 40 games and 42 healthy scratches, finally making the Panthers out of camp only to be traded when the younger Gudbranson was healthy again. He played a total of 44 games between two teams in the lockout shortened 48 game season, accumulating 3 points and 52 PIMS in 14:29 average ice time. He made the Kings 23 man roster out of camp this season, but has not yet dressed for a game, and of course, found his way to Winnipeg via waivers.
It’s not inspiring.
As a troll-sized defender, you might not be surprised to learn that his challenges are foot speed and decision making. His puck skills are negligible, though he does have a firm outlet pass. He just needs quite a bit of space and time to make it, something he can generate with his size, but which doesn’t lend itself to the Jets’ fast break transition.
How is Ellerby Used by Other Teams?
We often assume these types of players have a specialty role to play on the Penalty Kill. He did receive some time in that role with the Kings after Matt Greene was injured, but in short handed time per game, he was 6th among Kings’ defenders. Greene, Regehr, and Drewiske were all used ahead of him when available.
At even strength, the situation is a little worse:
Ellerby received a huge zone-start push, and among the weakest competition available. Still, he was a minus corsi player. Those defenders with at all comparable ice time contexts – Doughty, Voynov, Muzzin, and Martinec – all brought considerably more offence in the role.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The Jets have injuries. Stuart’s hip is apparently worse than expected, though his performance with the injury made him better by math for the simple reason that he didn’t chase the puck with the awareness of a wild dog. Trouba has started light workouts, but is far from ready. Postma is out a few months with a scary blood clot. And Zach Redmond has not yet played a game this season due to injury, though is back skating.
A few days of watching Ben Chiarot in practice spurred GM Cheveldayoff to action. But, as always, Cheveldayoff made the smallest action he could muster.
This is the quality of player that is available on waivers for the most part. The Jets have acquired a depth defender who is roughly equivalent in ability and impact to Adam Pardy (in the best case scenario). Even Corey Potter – who passed through waivers just the other day – has a better NHL resume, one that includes powerplay experience.
Look for Ellerby to be used in all the ways big defenders are. He’ll fight, throw some hits, and block some shots. But ultimately, he won’t help this team be anything more than a Central Division basement dweller for the 14 minutes he spends on the ice per night.