With the Oilers likely to run Cam Talbot until his legs actually fall off, the organization went ahead and signed some cover last spring when they brought undrafted NCAA free agent Nick Ellis into the mix. A former NCAA champion (albeit as a backup), the young net minder is poised to handle the starting job in Bakersfield for 2017-18. Here's how our crack staff voted:
A capable, average-sized goaltender with a solid glove hand and some respectable lower league numbers, Nick Ellis looks to be unchallenged for the #1 job on the farm this season. Ellis got into 34 games at the AHL level last season and posted capable numbers - his .918 SV% was good enough for top-15 numbers among 'qualified goalies' (a certain number of minutes, auto determined by the AHL site), and top-30 among 'all' goaltenders last season.
For context, Cam Talbot was a career AHL player until he hit .918 himself and got a look with the Rangers. Should Ellis replicate (or, god forbid, improve upon) that performance this season it would be very encouraging, in that it would likely be a sign that the young netminder has enough to compete at the next level. For more context, current Oilers backup Laurent Brossoit's first full season in the AHL saw him post an identical .918.
What The Scouts Said
October 2016 – "The Edmonton Oilers signed undrafted free agent Nick Ellis out of Providence College after his first year as a starter for the Friars. Ellis was not expected to do much in 2015-16 season, but after a 1.80 goals against average and .936 save percentage in 36 games, the Oilers shored up their goaltending prospect pool in the signing of the average-sized netminder. Ellis has a solid glove-hand and moves well around the crease. Early returns in three AHL starts are promising with a .928 save percentage which included a 41 save performance against the San Jose Barracuda in a game the Condors were outplayed."
-Zachary DeVine, courtesy dobberprospects.com
What The Brass Said
"Nick Ellis has been outstanding in Bakersfield"
-Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli
Look, they haven't said much. Let this be a lesson learned in deciding on a format before you source the material for it. Summer, right?!
Nick Ellis will be the clear #1 in Bakersfield this season. If the young man asserts himself and the incumbent NHL backup Brossoit struggles out of the gate, don't be surprised if young Ellis gets a cup of french press, or maybe an Americano with room for cream in the big show as early as this season. He's already shown well at the minor pro level, and flashes of greatness at the NCAA level, but in both cases the sample sizes are small enough that it's hard to get a proper picture of what Ellis can be today. That said, he's certainly one to watch with interest, as Talbot might play himself out of the Oilers budget with another great season, and Brossoit has yet to fully establish himself as an NHL regular. Watch this space. Or something equally pretentious.