(Note: This will be a series leading up to the start of the scheduled NHL season. I will look at each player who will definitely be, or could possibly be, on the opening day roster for the 2012-13 Sabres and speculate on their potential strengths and weaknesses during the year.)
Matt Ellis is not a flashy player.
The Buffalo Sabres have long had that one motor guy on the roster that is willing to give hard-nosed fourth line minutes without the expectation of much, if any, offense.
That’s Ellis’ role on the Sabres. He plays a high tempo game, with the hope that him and his linemates can get a good forecheck working in order to wear down the opposition’s defense.
Splitting his time between the NHL and the AHL (with Portland) in his first two seasons with the Sabres, Ellis stayed with the big club for the entirety of the 2011-12 season, playing 60 games and scoring 3 goals and 8 points.
Having a player like Ellis on the roster is great for a change of pace on the ice and a strong presence in the room, but, unfortunately for him, the Sabres have younger, more talented players that are able to do what he does with more of an offensive upside.
The departure of Zack Kassian at the trade deadline certainly helped his long-term prospects, but with Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp making the impressions they did last season, and Luke Adam and Rochester’s leading scorer Phil Varone in the mix as well, Ellis’ ice time could see a severe hit this season.
Right now, he is likely fighting for the last full-time spot on the roster with Tropp. However, a potential lockout could negatively impact Ellis because the Sabres brass will have the ability to watch Tropp in Rochester during that time, and Ellis may not have the same luxury.
Prediction: 45-50 games in the NHL, with 3 goals and 10 points in a fourth-line role.