Asked if this is a make-or-break season for him Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis is practical in his talk and laid-back in his demeanor.

“It’s obviously the last year of my contract so I’d love to have a big year” he said with a shrug. “But right now I’m focused on the next game.”

There’s more than a new contract riding on the 2013-14 season for the 22-year-old blueliner who was Nashville’s first-round pick in 2009. The Predators hope Ellis — a big-time scorer in junior who has only 17 points in 64 NHL games — can find a more consistent offensive flow. If he can’t his future with the franchise comes into question.

“He’s not gifted with size. You want to be as strong and as fast as you can to give yourself some separation” coach Barry Trotz said. “Last year he concentrated so much on defending and there wasn’t much offense out of him. Just a healthy balance is what I need.”

When Ellis left juniors after the 2011-12 season he was just one of three Ontario Hockey League defensemen to record more than 300 points in his career. The other two were Rick Corriveau and Hockey Hall of Fame player Denis Potvin.

While the Predators often try to shield their players from expectations it was hard to believe that Ellis wouldn’t contribute offensively in some way as a professional.

Instead the bigger stronger players in both the American Hockey League and NHL proved a tough transition for the 5-foot-10 175-pounder. Along with his low point totals with Nashville he has notched only 32 points in 61 games with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

And at his size if Ellis doesn’t score his effectiveness with the Predators is limited since he doesn’t play in defensive situations or the penalty kill.

In part to help Ellis this offseason the Predators hired former NHL defenseman Phil Housley as an assistant coach. Housley was also listed at 5-foot-10 during his playing career which he finished with 1232 points.