The Nashville Predators have basically become the University of ‘D’ in the past few seasons, headlined by the departed Ryan Suter and current franchise cornerstone Shea Weber. But the Preds also have a next generation in full swing thanks to fourth overall draft pick and early Calder contender Seth Jones, not to mention highly decorated offensive threat Ryan Ellis.
As it turns out, Ellis and Jones are more than just building blocks for Nashville; they’re also roommates on the road.
With the new CBA dictating that only players on entry-level deals have to share hotel rooms, the camaraderie of road roomies on teams has been lessened considerably, but Ellis and Jones have lucked out on the Preds.
“We’ve gotten along very well so far,” Ellis said. “It’s nice to have a relationship like that with another younger guy. He’s very mature for his age both on and off the ice.”
While Jones came to Nashville straight from the draft, the undersized Ellis had a more involved path. He won back-to-back Memorial Cups with the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires, then finished his career with a 101-point campaign that had him win major junior player of the year honors in 2010-11. He split his first two pro campaigns between Nashville and AHL Milwaukee, but has spent all of this season up with the Preds, a team still finding its footing in the new West.
“We’ve had some ruts here and there, but for the most part, the team is coming together,” Ellis said. “We’re still trying to find the chemistry, but overall the experienced guys are helping the younger guys out.”
Ellis’ reputation preceded him with Jones, who won a WHL title in his only season with the Portland Winterhawks.
“He’s a really great guy,” Jones said. “I didn’t really know him before this year. Obviously I had heard about him and what he’s done, but this is the first year I’ve gotten to know him as a person. I really enjoy having him as a roommate.”
Which bodes well for the future in Nashville. Ellis was a demon on the power play and a great rusher in junior, while Jones brings size, smarts and an excellent two-way game. With Weber ahead of them, the pressure is never going to fall squarely on the kids and Jones has already proven he can play massive minutes, though coach Barry Trotz has pulled him back recently in order to avoid burnout. Needless to say, the rookie has made an impact.
“He makes some great plays defensively and great plays offensively,” Ellis said. “We didn’t expect so much from him from the start, but he’s produced very well.”
Back in the day, when the majority of NHLers shared rooms on the road, the veteran would often pull rank – he got to choose which bed he wanted, what temperature the thermostat was set at and what the pair would watch on TV. The younger guy would be responsible for drawing the blinds and ordering room service. But between 22-year-old Ellis and 19-year-old Jones, it’s more democratic.
“There are no rules,” Jones said, with a smile. “I think he’s a little scared of me because I’m taller by a few inches.”
Added Ellis, with a healthy dose of sarcasm: “Yeah, I run the room for sure.”
For more on Seth Jones, check out the latest issue of The Hockey News, on newsstands this week and available bysubscription