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Preds prospect Ellis leads Windsor to 2nd straight Memorial Cup…

When the Nashville Predators selected Ryan Ellis with the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, a giant groan could be heard around Middle Tennessee. That groan could have been translated as “Seriously? Another defenseman?!” or perhaps “Um… we need scoring!”

Dear Preds… you were right. We were wrong.

Ellis, who made a strong showing at training camp this past season before being sent back to junior, bagged three assists as the Windsor Spitfires beat the host Brandon Wheat Kings 9-1 on Sunday night. With the win, Windsor became the first back-to-back Memorial Cup Champions since 1995.

Ellis finished the tournament as the second leading scorer among defensemen with five points, all assists.

Think about how rare back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships are to achieve. Not only do you have to win your league to secure a bid in the tournament (or be the pre-selected host team), but your junior career is typically only three to four years long. So, in that short four year window, you basically have to be the best and then become the best of the best.

Twice.

The 19-year old Freelton, Ontario native joins a ridiculously exclusive list of back-to-back champions such as Jerome Iginla and Shane Doan (both with the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995) and Trevor Linden (with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 1987 and 1988) among others.

2007 first round pick Jonathan Blum looks to have an inside track for a spot on the Nashville blueline next season but, if Ellis can impress the coaching staff as he did last year, don’t be surprised if you see him on the opening night roster instead.

Ellis joins Colin Wilson (2009 NCAA) and Blum (2007 Memorial Cup) as Predators prospects who have won championships in their respective leagues before donning a Nashville sweater.

The 2011 Memorial Cup Tournament will be hosted by the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of Mississauga, Ontario.

Windsor’s Taylor Hall, who was both the 2009 and 2010 tournament MVP, is projected as one of the top two overall picks in June’s NHL Draft. In the off-chance that he doesn’t crack the NHL lineup come October, he’ll have a chance to become the first player to win three consecutive Memorial Cups if he’s returned to his junior club for the 2010-11 season.