by Iain Fyffe
To answer my own question, no, there has never been a 17-year-old defenseman who led the OHL in assists. I went back to 1955 to check.
Before Ryan Ellis this year, only two defensemen have led the OHL (or OHA, before 1980) in assists. Bryan Fogarty led in assists (and points) in 1988-89, and Jamie Rivers led in assists in 1992-93. That was Fogarty’s age-19 season, and Rivers’ age-18 season.
In fact, the only age-17 defenseman I could find to even crack the top three in assists in any year was Bobby Orr, in 1965-66. Orr had one hell of year for Oshawa, scoring 38 goals and 56 assists for 94 points in 47 games (the schedule was 48 games). He finished second in assists, third in points (behind Andre Lacroix and Danny Grant, both age-20), and fifth in goals.
So, this year Ryan Ellis did something not even Bobby Orr could do.
Am I saying Ellis is the next Orr? Certainly not. Orr’s goal-scoring completely outstrips Ellis’ (.81 per game versus .39), and Orr’s age-16 was just as ridiculously good (93 points, just out of the top 10 in the league), while Ellis was merely fantastic in 2007-08 (63 points in 63 games).
I just think Ellis should be getting a lot more respect from the scouts than he is.