Ellis name world junior captain

Ryan Ellis cherishes the chance to captain Canada’s hockey team at the world junior championships.

Ryan Ellis was named captain of the Canadian world junior team on Sunday.

Ryan Ellis was named captain of the Canadian world junior team on Sunday.

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — Ryan Ellis cherishes the chance to captain Canada’s hockey team at the world junior championships.

But the diminutive dynamo from Freelton, Ont., barely paused Sunday to reflect on the honour, preoccupied with thoughts of redemption just a week out from Canada’s opening game.

The Windsor Spitfires defenceman and two-time Memorial Cup champion was named team captain at a dinner Saturday night. Hockey Canada made the announcement Sunday.

“The guys who got the letters were excited and I think everyone is just proud to represent their country,” Ellis said in a phone interview Sunday following practice. “I think we’re all very excited for this world juniors to start.”

Ellis will make his third world junior appearance after helping Canada capture gold in 2009 and silver in 2010.

Last year’s runner-up result still stings, and the five-foot-10, 184-pound Ellis is keen to make sure his final world junior appearance is golden.

“It’s very important,” Ellis said. “I think especially after the way we lost last year, it was pretty heartbreaking and that was a pretty big loss for the country, let alone ourselves. I think we have a lot to redeem and a lot to prove to a lot of people.”

Jared Cowen of Allan, Sask., (Spokane Chiefs) and Calvin de Haan of Carp., Ont., (Oshawa Generals), and Brayden Schenn of Saskatoon (Brandon Wheat Kings) were named alternate captains for the world tournament, which runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Buffalo.

Ellis, who turns 20 on Jan. 3 — two days before the gold-medal game — was mostly used as a power-play specialist in his world junior debut two years ago in Ottawa. In last year’s tournament, in which Canada lost in the final to the United States in Regina, he was given more playing time.

“My first one was a learning curve at first, I had to get used to the older guys and whatnot, the second one I expected a little more but I was still kind of one of the young guys,” Ellis said.

The team’s only veteran of three world tournaments knows this time around he’ll be looked to for more than just his play on the ice.

“Now it’s my last one, and I’ll be one of the oldest people there, so I think a lot of people are kind of looking to me for leadership and whatnot,” he said. “I’ve got to bring it all this year for sure.”

Ellis, a first-round draft pick by the Nashville Predators in 2009, compares the honour to the role he plays with the Spitfires, where he’s also the team captain, winning Memorials Cups with Windsor in 2009 and 2010.

The teams are similar as well, Ellis added, in their hard-working, lunch-bucket approach to the game.

“(The captaincy) is something I relish,” Ellis said. “And this year is a similar team to my team in Windsor.

“The previous two (Canadian junior teams), they had a lot of highly-skilled and highly-touted people like the John Tavares, and Taylor Halls of the world on the team. But this year I think we’re a lot more simple-minded defensive team that works as hard as we can to get the win.”

Ellis shares the lead as top scoring defenceman of all-time for Canada’s junior team with Alex Pietrangelo. Both have 14 points.

He’s the 31st Canadian junior team captain since 1982 and the start of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence, and only the seventh player since then to represent Canada at three world junior tournaments, joining Jay Bouwmeester (2000-02), Jason Spezza (2000-02), Jason Botterill (1995-97), Martin Lapointe (1991-93), Eric Lindros (1990-92), and Trevor Kidd (1990-92).

Canada opens the 2011 IIHF world junior tournament versus Russia on Dec. 26.

The team has three exhibition games before then, Dec. 20 versus Switzerland in Oshawa, Ont., Dec. 21 versus Sweden in Toronto, and Dec. 23 versus Finland in Kitchener, Ont.

Canada has medalled at 12 consecutive world junior tournaments, including gold in 2005, ’06, ’07, ’08 and ’09, and silver in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2010. Canada won bronze in 2000 and 2001.