Ever since he was a young player growing up in Cleveland, Dave Ellett always liked playing defense and had superior offensive skills to go with it. While playing at Bowling Green University, Ellett quarterbacked the team's power-play unit and had 54 points in just 43 games on 15 goals and 39 assists.
In the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, Ellett was chosen 75th overall in round four by the Winnipeg Jets. When he graduated from school in the spring of 1984, he joined the Jets that fall and made the roster, playing in all 80 games and contributing 38 points. During six full seasons in Winnipeg, Ellett was tremendously resilient, appearing in no fewer than 68 games each season and dressing for at least 75 games on five occasions.
The Jets general manager John Ferguson, and head scout Les Binkley, had played on the same team as Ellett's father, Bob, back in the 1960s with the Cleveland Barons and had kept a close watch on the younger Ellett's hockey development through the minor ranks.
Early in 1990-91, Ellett was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he would spend the better part of seven years. The Leafs put together two solid runs at the Stanley Cup in 1993 and 1994 with the likes of Ellett, Doug Gilmour, and Jamie Macoun providing some much-needed leadership. Both years the Leafs advanced to the Conference finals, only to be turned back. In the 1994 playoffs, Ellett averaged a point per game in 18 post-season contests.
With 20 games left in the 1996-97, Ellett was shipped to the New Jersey Devils. He then moved on as a free agent to the Boston Bruins, where he played for two seasons. In 136 games with the Bruins, Ellett was held to just three goals. Ellett's final year in the NHL was in 1999-00, when in 52 games, he had ten points as a member of the St. Louis Blues.