Ellerby returns to Blazers

CAM MAXWELL -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

A lot of good NHL players, including Dany Heatley, have come out of the Calgary area, and Keaton Ellerby may one day join the list.

The Kamloops Blazers defenceman recently returned to the WHL team from the Florida Panthers training camp after the Cats selected him 10th overall in the NHL entry draft this past June.

While most kids don't crack an NHL lineup until they're out of junior, Ellerby, 18, was is no exception, but he enjoyed every moment of his time with the club.

"Training camp was sweet," said Ellerby, who hails from Okotoks.

"I had a chance to play with players like Mike Van Ryn, Bryan Allen and Jay Bouwmeester and guys like that. It was pretty cool."

It must have been given Bouwmeester, a former Medicine Hat Tigers standout, is one of the players Ellerby models his game after.

Another bonus from training camp was getting into the lineup when the Panthers took on the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome in an exhibition tilt.

"That was awesome because all my family and friends came and watched, and we won, too, which was good. Plus, I played pretty good, so it was exciting," said Ellerby, who helped Canada crush a bad Russian team in the overhyped Super Series.

"The Flames were my favourite team growing up, so it was pretty cool getting to play my first exhibition game against them in Calgary."

The Blazers are expected to be one of the better WHL clubs this season, and it's interesting how Ellerby first joined the team.

Back when he was 15, he stretched the measuring tape at 5-ft.-7 and went undrafted in the bantam draft.

But he sprouted up 6 in. during the next six months and the Blazers added him to their 50-man roster.

"When I was younger, I was a pretty small guy, and there weren't too many teams looking at me," Ellerby told Hockey's Future. "I had a huge growth spurt from when I was 14 to 15."

He promptly made the team as a 16-year-old and has blossomed into a great-skating, 6-ft.-4, 190-lb. blueliner.

The one thing he needs to do, though, is put some bulk on his gangly frame, and he knows it's a must if he hopes to play in the NHL with the Panthers.

"I tried to put on some weight this summer, but I had strep throat, and that set me back from putting on some weight," said Ellerby, whose cousin and favourite player is Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes. "I still put on a little bit and got a little bigger and stronger.

"Right now, my weight's good, but if I want to play in the NHL, I'll probably have to play around 210 or 215, somewhere in there."

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