VOORHEES, NJ — Ryan Ellis is expected to miss the Flyers’ entire 2022-23 season as he continues to fight a multilayered injury in his pelvic region.
General manager Chuck Fletcher did not rule out the potential of Ellis’ injury to be career-ending.
“Certainly that’s a possibility,” he said Thursday at the start of Flyers training camp.
“I’ll just say that my assumption is he won’t play this season. If he does, it’ll be a bonus. That’s how we’ve prepared this offseason by making the additions we did on the blue line.”
The top-pair defenseman was forced out for all but four games last season, his first with the Flyers. He was the club’s prized offseason addition last summer. In an attempt to fill the Flyers’ gaping hole on their top defensive pair, Fletcher acquired Ellis in a trade with the Predators.
At his end-of-the-season press conference in April, Ellis expressed optimism about finally understanding the exact nature of the injury and identifying a rehab plan for his return this season. The recovery hit roadblocks in July, when the 31-year-old was due to ramp things up.
“The rehab, there’s been ebbs and flows,” Fletcher said. “I think he made progress earlier in the summer. I would say the last two months, there hasn’t been any visible signs of progress. It’s been a frustrating injury. Nobody’s more frustrated than Ryan. Nobody wants to play more than Ryan. But we’re dealing with reality now. He’s not skating, so clearly he’s a long way away from playing.”
Right now, surgery doesn’t seem like a viable option because of the complexity of the injury.
“I know we’ve been probably vague with describing the injury. I think we called it multifaceted, which it is,” Fletcher said. “There’s a psoas (back muscle) component of this, there’s a hip component, there’s an abductor component. So I’m not sure if you go in and repair one part, it’s going to fix everything.
“We’re trying to work with trying to get everything back, rehab everything back. I’ve never heard of an injury like this, it’s very complicated. A torn psoas is a very significant injury for a hockey player, a very rare injury . We’re doing the best we can and we’ll just leave it up to the medical experts.”
Fletcher said placing Ellis on long-term injured reserve is an option for the Flyers. They’ll have that decision near the end of the preseason or early in the regular season.
This summer, the Flyers traded for Tony DeAngelo, who is expected to be Ivan Provorov’s new top-pair partner. They also brought back Justin Braun in free agency to solidify their third pair.
Ellis sustained the injury in the Flyers’ preseason finale last year on Oct. 8. He said it was an injury he had never dealt with before. He was able to play in the Flyers’ first three regular-season games before realizing he had to come out. After missing nine games, Ellis suffered a reinjury in his return to the lineup in November. It turned out to be his last game of the season.
Ellis and the Flyers hope it won’t be the last game of his NHL career.
“Extremely frustrating for him,” Fletcher said. “I don’t think he ever expected to be traded from Nashville, I think he thought he’d be a Predator forever. He got over the initial shock of being traded, he came here, he dove right in, was a great teammate , Ivan Provorov took under his wing. They honestly had breakfast, lunch together every day, they were inseparable trying to build that chemistry.
“He was so excited to start the season. When he played, played well. Nobody wants to play more than Ryan Ellis. I know people in this market haven’t had a great chance to see him, but a high-end competitor, It’s been very difficult on Ryan as a human, trying to get healthy and trying to be a part of what we’re building here and play.
“We’ll hope for the best. Things can turn quickly as we’ve seen both for the good and for the bad. We’ll keep hoping.”
Carter Hart called Ellis an “unreal defenseman” and a “huge loss” if he’s unable to play this season. Ellis was able to make a team gathering recently at Nicolas Deslauriers’ house.
“It was nice to see him there, we hadn’t seen him in a while,” Hart said. “It was good to see him and his family was with him, he was in good spirits.”
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