Trading a fifth round draft pick for a guy playing on another teams’s third defensive pairing usually doesn’t bubble up to the surface as a major story. However, when the defending Stanley Cup Champions are missing two of their key weapons on the blueline and the new guy coming in is only a few years removed from being a first round draft pick, the narrative takes on a little extra meaning.
Keaton Ellerby was acquired by the Kings last Friday in exchange for the draft pick they received earlier in the week for Andrei Loktionov. Two days later, he was partnered with Drew Doughty in Detroit and played more than 18 minutes (all but 15 seconds of it coming at even strength). The following night in St. Louis he played over 20 minutes and picked up his first point with his new team, assisting on Jeff Carter’s game-winning goal.
His responsibilities also look to have expanded a little that night, when he spent two minutes on the penalty kill and even enjoyed some time on the power play as well.
Although two games is hardly a large sample size, three of his teammates offered some early reviews after practice today…
“The system he played in Florida is a lot different than the system we play here,” Doughty said. “That’s one of the areas I’ve been helping him with. We’ve been watching a lot of video together, just trying to help him out with the new things we do. There’s so many different things that one team does from another – you don’t even realize it until someone comes here from a trade and you’ve got to help them out with it. But he’s done a great job so far adjusting. I think we’ve played pretty well together. We’ve been moving the puck well and I like playing with him.”
Another dimension that Ellerby has brought is size. At 6-foot-5, you can’t miss him when he’s on the ice.
“That’s big, especially when you’re a big guy and can move as good as him,” Doughty remarked. “He’s a good puck mover and he can skate like the wind. He can also play hard down low and make big hits. He’s strong in front of the net and that’s an area we’ve been struggling in.”
Even forward Mike Richards has noticed what Ellerby has brought to the Kings over the last two games.
“He’s a smart player, always puts himself in the right position,” Richards noted.
He also doesn’t seem to mind having Ellerby’s large frame back on defense.
“It obviously helps you if you’re big and you can skate like he can,” said Richards, making a similar observation as Doughty did above. “He makes good passes, and reads plays very well. So if you’re big and put yourself in position to make plays – and you’re a smart player – obviously that helps.”
It’s not all about size though.
“It’s just how smart he is – that’s more important than how big he is,” Richards stated.
Other than Doughty, the guy who may have been the happiest to see Ellerby’s arrival was veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi. As the team’s lone stay-at-home defenseman due to the absence of Matt Greene, he likely welcomed a little company back there.
“I thought Keat’s done a really nice job for us,” Scuderi began. “Making the simple play with the puck when you don’t have anything, and making the pass when you can. He plays physical too, trying to be a force down low and making contact.”
Using a bit of his usual dry humor, Scuderi said “It doesn’t hurt” when Ellerby’s size came up.
“When you look at the guys we’re missing. It’s not just about the size. It’s the way they play. Having another physical D-man in the lineup is just a nice mix for our group.”
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