Video: MINORS MINUTE | Wells is Well
Backing up Laurent Brossoit in Bakersfield while trying to hone his game is nothing new for Oilers goaltending prospect Nick Ellis.
While at Providence College, Ellis had limited playing time in his first two seasons prior to coming in as a starter in a record-breaking third year.
"I knew I'd eventually get my opportunity and when I got my opportunity I had to make the best of it," said Ellis. "In practice my first two years, I just tried to compete for every puck and we had goalie sessions every practice."
Ellis made the most of that opportunity. He had the best season in Providence College history among goaltenders with a 25-7-4 record, 1.80 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.
"The biggest adjustment was just playing back-to-back games every night," Ellis stated when asked about the transition from backup to starter. "That was pretty much it, to be honest. Practices were the exact same. I worked hard every day."
In his first two seasons, Ellis practiced a lot with only seven games in his freshman year and five in his sophomore season.
"We had one of the best college teams in the nation and if I felt comfortable playing against my own guys I felt I'd be successful playing against other teams. That was kind of my mindset and eventually it all worked out."
The practicing helped make him a better and sharper goaltender, particularly being part of Providence College's national championship in 2015.
"It definitely helped to see what it takes to win and get that experience. The intensity of the games definitely helps."
Following his historically successful season, Ellis felt he was ready to take the next step to the pros at age 22 and signed with Edmonton.
"I just felt really comfortable with signing with the Oilers and talking to the two goalie coaches (Dustin Schwartz and Sylvain Rodrigue), what they thought I needed to improve and I felt we were on the same page," Ellis remarked, adding that he's been very impressed with the team overall in his limited experience.
"It's a really great organization. I felt really comfortable there starting with training camp and obviously the new arena is gorgeous. They're a first-class organization."
Ellis' first exposure to his future teammates and coaches came at Orientation Camp in Jasper in early July. It was there that he started the transition from college to pros.
"I took away a lot of the new things that the goalie coaches were trying to implement into my game, like tracking shots and being set and ready for every shot, every pass is going to be a one-timer type mentality," Ellis began. "That was a really good five days working with the two goalie coaches to get adjusted to how their language is and with my language, how we can communicate and work with each other."
From Jasper, Ellis spent a hard summer working out and working on his game followed by a successful Oilers Rookie Camp. From there, he graduated to main camp and got his first look at NHL pros.
"It's definitely a little bit of an adjustment, to just get used to the big-name guys in the locker room. There's a big wow factor there but you've got to put that aside because you've got to go out there and compete for every shot," Ellis added. "Playing in the exhibition game was pretty special. I only got to play one period but I played pretty well. It was a cool experience to get an NHL game in and see what it's kind of like."
So far, through five games in the AHL, Ellis has acquitted himself well. He has a 3-2-0 record and 2.58 goals-against average to go along with a .928 save percentage. He's faced more than 30 shots in every game so far.
"In the American League, guys shoot from everywhere just because it's really tight defence. They try and get a shot on net, a rebound or a tip," he said. "Guys are really good with tips. Any shot is really a good scoring chance. Even our coach in Bakersfield says shoot whenever you get a chance because you never know what's going to happen."
Ellis has been strong, particularly in the save percentage department, but he knows he has room to grow in order to hit his ultimate goal of making the NHL.
"I think they've gone pretty well but there's still some things I need to adjust to and be a little more urgent. In college I can be a little less urgent and get away with it but now everything has to be urgent and detailed and if it's not, a goal could happen."
Certainly, if he continues the successful progression he had in college, Ellis is someone Oilers fans will need to keep their eye on down the road.