In a surprising decision, Edmonton Oilers minor league goaltender Nick Ellis announced his retirement today via a post on his Instagram page. Ellis will instead pursue a career as a teacher and coach, ending his professional playing career just a few years after it began.
Ellis, 24, was scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer after spending the last two seasons in the Edmonton organization playing for the Bakersfield Condors and Wichita Thunder. Though it seemed likely that he wouldn’t get a qualifying offer, it’s unusual to see players walk away from the game at such a young age. Ellis signed out of Providence College in 2016, but never made it into a game at the NHL level.
In his only season as a starter for Providence, Ellis dominated the NCAA ranks with a 25-7-4 record and .936 save percentage. Turning that into a pro contract, he found early success in the AHL and looked like a solid signing for the Oilers to provide some depth at the goaltender position. This season Ellis wasn’t as effective, and it’s easy to see how he wouldn’t have had a job with Bakersfield next season. Dylan Wells is an upcoming prospect for the Oilers, and after signing Mikko Koskinen the team will likely have to send Al Montoya to the minor leagues. Shane Starrett is also still around, while Stuart Skinner—while still in junior—is being groomed as the goaltender of the future.
For Edmonton, this is little more than a few hundred thousand dollars lost for their trouble. Ellis didn’t take up a draft pick, or steal any real development time from their other goaltending prospects. Though he was an effective goaltender at times, the team has other plans for the position.