Defenseman Keaton Ellerby had played nine games this season with the Florida Panthers when the Kings acquired him. Since then, he’s played nine games with his new club and is slowly starting to settle in.
From Dean Lombardi saying his coaching staff needed to give him a foundation, to coach Darryl Sutter reminding everybody Ellerby is still a young player and needs more seasoning before becoming a full-time NHL player, it probably hasn’t been quite the party he expected since hearing he’d be joining the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Still, it’s been nothing but a positive experience for the 24-year old former first round draft pick.
“Bernie (Jonathan Bernier) and Doughty, we’re kind of all the same age and we played together before a little bit,” said Ellerby. “So, I’ve bonded with them pretty well. But, this room is just so tight, such good guys, it’s just a good locker room to be a part of. Everybody is so welcoming and warming, so it’s been a pretty easy transition getting to know everybody.”
Outside the room, he credits assistant coach John Stevens – who typically works with the guys on the blueline – as one of the people helping him make the adjustment from the Eastern Conference to the much different Western Conference style of play.
“He has been amazing,” Ellerby remarked. “We’ve done video every day, and have just sat down one-on-one and been looking over shifts, other team’s tendencies, and that kind of stuff. He’s been an amazing help so far and is obviously going to continue to be a big help with my development and my progression over the rest of the season and hopefully for a long time down the road.”
That evolvement of Ellerby’s game is a work-in-progress. Brought into the Panthers organization with high expectations, his role is different in Los Angeles. He doesn’t have to be one of the saviours of the franchise. Here, he just needs to be a solid, defensive-minded defenseman. Make a good first pass and shut down the opposition. That’s not asking for too much, is it?
Oh, and learn the Kings’ system while still playing games just about every-other night due to the compacted, shortened season.
“Going from one team to another there’s always going to be ups and downs and different things,” he began to explain. “The system here is the opposite of what it was in Florida. It’s a whole learning curve, and it’s all part of the game. It’s like going back to school, learning on the fly. I’m just really focused on what I need to do defensively, and doing it within our system.”
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, but for the most part, his numbers haven’t been a problem. After averaging about 18 minutes a night over his first four games with the Kings, things have been cut back to about 13 minutes, and part of that has been situational.
He’s also only had one game where he was a minus for the night (minus-2 at Chicago) and is a plus-3 since the trade.
Better yet, to hear him tell it, he’s starting to find his groove.
“I think the Alberta trip I was a little – I don’t know if I was nervous, I had never played in front of my family and stuff like that before. So, I was over thinking things a little too much and I think it affected my play a little bit. Since we’ve been back, I think I’ve settled back down to keeping things simple and just playing a good solid defensive game. I think with this homestand it’s (allowed) me to keep building my game, and work on things that need to be worked on and just keep getting better.”
One game at a time. That’s all a coach can ask for.
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