PRINCETON, N.J. – 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.
Raycroft received 93 of 105 first-place votes and had 1,002 points while Ryder had 723 points and was named on 104 of 105 ballots. 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. The last Canadiens rookie to score 25 goals in a season was Claude Lemieux, who had 27 goals in 1986-87. The 24-year-old Ryder finished with the fifth-highest point total for a Canadiens rookie, behind the 71 points scored by Mats Naslund in 1982-83 and Kjell Dahlin in 1985-86 and the 64 points scored by Guy Lafleur in 1971-72 and Chris Chelios in 1984-85.
The 6-1 and 195-pound 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 there were 40 players that played in the NHL after playing in the ECHL. Eleven players, including eight goaltenders, appeared in both the ECHL and the NHL in 2003-04 and a total of 115 ECHL players played in the NHL in 2003-04. 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.