Being traded is nothing new to Keaton Ellerby. For his 19th birthday the Kamloops Blazers – his junior team since entering the WHL – dealt him 700 miles away to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Things were a little different last Friday though when his home address shifted all the way across the U.S., going from Florida to Los Angeles. After one practice, followed by back-to-back games with his new team, Ellerby’s finally touched down in California and is trying his best to quickly get acclimated to his new surroundings.
Tuesday morning brought some much needed sleep and then a trip to Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo for a tour of the team’s training facility. Next, he wanted to see what the local scene had to offer, so he did what anybody would do in a similar situation – he grabbed Jake Muzzin and Jordan Nolan to show him around. After all, who knows SoCal better than a duo who have played a combined 23 regular season games in LA?
“We’re just popular guys” quipped Muzzin when asked why he was chosen as a tour-guide.
Truth be told there is a more logical reason.
“Really, we were stuck in the hotel and it gets pretty boring there sometimes,” he added. “So, we went to Hermosa Pier for lunch and then just drove him around.”
Regardless of how they came together, Ellerby didn’t seem to mind the company while he dined on some sushi, hit the beach and then went to buy some shorts and t-shirts.
“We were on the road in Florida (at the time of the trade),” he pointed out. “So I really don’t have any of my stuff here. I had to go buy a whole new wardrobe.”
Somebody clearly didn’t let Jarret Stoll and Brad Richardson know that was on the agenda. They would have been all over helping him run that errand.
Fashion issues aside, Ellerby’s ready to start fresh here, even if that comes with a bit of a retro feel on the ice.
After wearing numbers 39 and four with the Panthers, he opted for number five with the Kings. It’s a number he wore during his junior days and it’s the same one his father had as a player.
“He coached me on the way up and helped me,” Ellerby said when talking about his dad. “He sacrificed pretty much everything and his time, and whatever, to get me to where I am. I’m eternally grateful and he’s definitely a huge inspiration for me.”
The 6-foot-5 bruiser is a big chip off the old block too.
“He never wanted me to be a forward or a goalie. So, I was kind of thrown into the defensive position and I guess with my size it worked out alright.”
Well maybe not completely. He’s still learning to be a full-time defenseman in the NHL, as coach Darryl Sutter reminded the media after practice on Wednesday.
Even so, Ellerby has fond memories of his early hockey heroes.
“I grew up watching my cousin Shane Doan right from the start so he was kind of my favorite player growing up.” he said. “Defensively I always liked Ray Bourque and Chris Pronger…and obviously Bobby Orr, who is the all-time best D-man.”
Yes, eyebrows immediately went up when he said the name Shane Doan – and Ellerby was even waiting for a reaction.
“Yeah, he’s not very liked around these parts,” he said with a bit of a chuckle. “So, keep that on the D.L.”
That’s ‘downlow’ to the rest of you.
But, no problem. We never dish here on MayorsManor. We’re good at keeping all the inside secrets.
“I don’t know if everybody (on the team) knows,” Ellerby continued. “So, I guess when we play (Phoenix) they’ll probably find out and get a laugh over it.”
“I mean, from that playoff series last year and even the game this year – he’s a battler and a competitor. Yeah, he’s my cousin. But, obviously he’s the enemy when we play them. So there’s no friends on the other side.”
For Ellerby, there also won’t be many familiar faces across the ice over the next few months. He’s played in the Eastern Conference since making his NHL debut in 2010 and he’s only starting to wrap his around the major changes he’s facing.
“The style of play is unbelievably different just from the two games I’ve been here,” he noted. “It’s like a playoff game almost every night here. The teams are just bigger. They battle…It’s grind it out, smash each other around with lower scoring games. Out East you get a lot of 7-1, 6-2, 6-6 games. A lot of goals. Out here I find it’s more like 3-2, 2-1 goal games.”
He must not have received the memo yet. It’s a 3-2 league.
“I like that kind of game. I grew up in the West, played in the Western Hockey League, and grew up around that style of hockey. So I’m excited to play that way.”
You know what else has him pretty pumped? The opportunity to play with Drew Doughty.
“The kid is an absolute phenomenal hockey player,” Ellerby said. “Norris Trophy candidate, gold medal winner, Stanley Cup winner – he’s done it all and he’s only 23 years old. So getting thrown in here and getting paired up with a guy like that, it’s huge for the confidence. I think our styles of play complement each other and hopefully we can be a solid pairing for a long time coming.”
And just keep the good times rolling because Sutter has even used him a little bit on the power play.
“Davis (Drewiske) was joking around telling me I had to get to the middle and shoot the puck,” Ellerby recalled. “I told him I hadn’t been on the power play in about four years so I have to remember how to do that. I was in more of a defensive and PK kind of role in Florida. So, whatever situations I get in here I’m going to make the most of them.”
“I’m super excited and couldn’t have come into a better situation I don’t think,” Ellerby concluded. “But, it’s going to take a while to get used to everything and all the traffic and stuff like that.”
Welcome to LA.
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Special thanks to Gann Matsuda for supplying the audio used to transcribe the above quotes.