MONTREAL, Quebec – The Montreal Canadiens have signed Marc-Andre Thinel, who played in the ECHL in 2003-04 with Columbus, to a one-year contract. The Canadiens have reached an affiliation agreement for 2004-05 with Long Beach of the ECHL.
Selected in the fifth round (145th overall) by Montreal in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, the 23-year-old Thinel scored 42 points (17g-25a) in 47 games with Columbus in 2003-04. He tied for the team lead with five power-play goals while ranking second with five game-winning goals and fourth in scoring. He also played in the American Hockey League with Hamilton, scoring two points (1g-1a) in 14 regular season games and one point (1g-0a) in 10 playoff games.
In 2002-03, the 5-10 and 178-pound Thinel played in the ECHL with Lexington and in the AHL with Utah. He scored 28 points (14g-14a) in 27 games with Lexington and had 28 points (5g-15a) in 44 regular season games while also appearing in two playoff games for Utah. He began his professional career in 2001-02 scoring 10 points (6g-4a) in 73 regular season games and appearing two playoff games for Quebec.
Montreal’s Michael Ryder, who played in the ECHL with both Mississippi and Tallahassee, finished second to Boston goaltender Andrew Raycroft in voting for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the National Hockey League’s top rookie. Ryder is the first player in ECHL history to be a finalist for the award. Named NHL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News in May, Ryder led the NHL with 38 assists and 63 points and tied for the lead with 25 goals.
Ryder began his professional career in 2000-01 scoring nine points (4g-5a) in five regular season games with Tallahassee of the ECHL and 15 points (6g-9a) in 61 regular season games with Quebec of the American Hockey League. Ryder returned to the ECHL in 2001-02 and scored 27 points (14g-13a) in 20 games with Mississippi. Selected in the eighth round (216th overall) by Montreal in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Ryder was selected to the 2002 ECHL All-Star Game, but was unable to participate after being called up to Quebec of the AHL where he scored 28 points (11g-17a) in 50 regular season games and one point (0g-1a) in three playoff games.
The Premier “AA” Hockey League, the ECHL had affiliations with 21 of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League in 2003-04 and every NHL team had an ECHL player play for it in 2003-04. In 2003-04 there were 40 players that played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL, surpassing the high of 27 players in 1999-2000 and 2000-01. Eleven players, including eight goaltenders, appeared in both the ECHL and the NHL in 2003-04, breaking the high of five players in 2001-02, and a total of 116 ECHL players played in the NHL in 2003-04. There have been 255 players that have played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL.
For the fifth consecutive year the ECHL is represented on the Stanley Cup Champion with Ruslan Fedotenko, Nolan Pratt and Andre Roy as well as radio play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin and assistant equipment manager Dana Heinze.
There were former ECHL coaches behind the benches of 14 of the 28 teams in the American Hockey League and all 28 teams in the AHL had an ECHL player take the ice for them in 2003-04. The ECHL had affiliation agreements with 21 of the 28 teams in the AHL and there were over 90 players on AHL contracts in the ECHL in 2003-04. There were more than 220 players that played in both the ECHL and the AHL in 2003-04 and the ECHL had 425 call-ups, involving 234 players, to the AHL during the regular season.
For the 15th consecutive season, an ECHL player is a member of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Champion. In addition to Claude Noel, who is in his first season as head coach, Milwaukee had eight players and radio announcer Kyle Schultz, who are all alumni of the ECHL.