Keaton Ellerby is officially on notice.
The Florida Panthers defenseman — who’s failed to make good on the promise that saw him taken 10th overall at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft — was called out by GM Dale Tallon in a recent interview with The Hockey Writers (via the Florida Sun Sentinel).
“Now it’s time for him to grab the bull by the horns,” Tallon explained. “He has the ability, he’s a great skater, he’s got a good shot. I challenged him at the exit meeting that he needs to get prepared this off-season and get stronger mentally and physically.”
Ellerby took a step backwards last season after what appeared to be a breakthrough 2010-11 campaign (54GP, 2G-10A-12PTS, 16:06 average TOI). The 24-year-old only appeared in 40 regular season contests, recorded just five points (no goals) and saw his ice time dip to 15:23 per game.
To make matters worse, a lower-body injury limited him to just one appearance in the Panthers’ opening round playoff loss to the Devils.
Ellerby also catches a lot of heat because of his draft position and the defensemen taken shortly afterward — the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh went 12th overall and St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk went 14th. Both are thriving on their respective clubs: McDonagh finished 11th in Norris voting last season, Shattenkirk 18th.
That said, brighter days could be ahead for Ellerby. He signed a one-year, $700,000 extension with the Panthers this summer and projects to be a top-six blueliner this season.