By: Hamilton Bulldogs
07/17/2013 1:22 PM -
HAMILTON, ONTARIO – Morgan Ellis received plenty of on-the-job training in his rookie season in the American Hockey League.
Ellis led all Hamilton Bulldogs defencemen with 71 games played, two behind team leader Zack Stortini. A fourth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Ellis capped off his junior career by winning a Memorial Cup with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“You come into your first pro season and you don’t know what to expect,” Ellis said recently.
“You know it will be different than junior, but you are playing against men who do this for a job. In junior you’re playing hockey, but it’s not a job. Guys are experienced here and a lot of them are great players who played in the NHL. It’s a learning process.
“There’s up and downs here, but you need to look for the positives. You have to keep working hard. It’s tougher here than in junior, you need to learn from it. We didn’t make the playoffs and now we have some time in the summer to work on those things. You learn a lot of things in a season like this that you can take into next season.”
Ellis was an offensive contributor in junior with the Cataractes and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He produced eight points, including four goals, with the Bulldogs.
“In junior you have more time and space. I don’t consider myself an offensive defenceman. In junior you have more confidence to make plays and more time to do things. Here the guys take away that time and space. This team struggled to score at times, and if I could have contributed some more goals, that might have helped. I didn’t get a lot of points, but I need to capitalize on the chances I do get.”
Ellis, who turned 21 on April 30, won the Kevin Lowe Trophy in his final year of junior as the QMJHL’s best defensive defenceman and he continued to work on his play in his own end with the Bulldogs.
“I think I made quite a few strides. It was a real learning process at the start of the season, but by the end of it I thought I was playing my best. I was taking in more information and learning the little things that can help you in your game. I thought that made a big difference for me.
“I learned to be more physical and limit the time and space for the more skilled guys. I became a lot more aware in the defensive zone.”
The Bulldogs produced a league-low 159 goals, putting the onus on the team’s defencemen and goaltenders to keep games close.
“Our goalies really helped us out a lot,” said Ellis, one of five rookies who regularly patrolled the Bulldogs’ blueline.
“Our main goal was to not give up a lot of goals and maybe get enough that would let us squeak through. Our defence was pretty good and we did a pretty good job of eliminating scoring chances. We just didn’t score as many goals as we would have liked this season and that makes a difference in a game.”
A resident of Ellerslie, Prince Edward Island, Ellis said he also learned how to manage the professional game off the ice.
“Now I know about little things like eating properly when living on your own and how to take care of yourself. We’re men now. In junior you live with someone who cooks all your meals and you need to find time to look after yourself. I will need to pinpoint some things to get better at to get to that next level.
“I work really hard in the summers. I will come back with a full season under my belt and now I know the ropes in the pros. That will make a big difference for next season.”