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SYDNEY – The ultimate goal for Cape Breton Screaming Eagles’ captain Morgan Ellis is to play in the NHL some day, but the 19-year-old defenceman doesn’t plan on rushing there.
“My goal is to play in some pre-season games,” said Ellis, who will take part in the Montreal Canadiens’ rookie camp that begins Sept. 12, with the main camp to start, Sept. 16. “If that happens great. If not, just try to find a way to make it happen.
“It all depends on my season...I just want to play good hockey and if I’m playing well, things will fall into place.”
This will be the second rookie camp for Ellis, who was drafted by the Canadiens in the fourth round, No. 117 overall in the 2010 NHL draft. In June, he attended his second development camp with the Canadiens.
To prepare this year, Ellis trained this summer in Fredericton, N.B. with teammates Logan Shaw and Stephen Woodworth, former Eagles’ forward Taylor MacDougall and other pro players under the watchful eye of conditioning coach Ken Seaman.
“You want to get better at everything,” said Ellis, a native of East Bideford, P.E.I. “(The Canadiens) just said to keep doing what I’m doing, my development is going well, keep working hard and be ready for camp and hopefully, play a pre-season game or two.”
Back in Cape Breton, Ellis sees the 2011-12 season as a clean slate for both he and his teammates. The Screaming Eagles are coming off their worst regular season in franchise history, posting an 18-45-1-4 record. Cape Breton was eventually swept in the opening round of the playoffs in convincing fashion by the eventual MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs. As an added hit, the franchise wasn’t successful in their bid to host the 2012 Memorial Cup tournament.
But Ellis has reason to be optimistic. The club boasts a large number of returning players like Shaw, Denis Kindl, Cory MacIntosh and goaltender Alex Veronneau, and has added scoring punch with overagers Jonathan Brunelle and David Rose up front. As for Ellis, he’s coming off his best season yet as an Eagle, posting career highs in goals (8), assists (28) and points (36) in 2010-11.
The team also shook things up behind the bench. Head coach and general manager Mario Durocher was fired and replaced by new bench boss Ron Choules and Pierre Roux as GM.
“Last season wasn’t great and was kind of a disappointment from the organization’s standpoint and the fans of course,” said Ellis. “But we have a new coach and we didn’t lose too many players. They’ll have more experience and a summer of training will help a lot of guys.
“I think our team will be a lot different from last year...I think we’ll be a strong team and we’ll surprise a lot of people.”
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