MONTREAL - The natural goal scorer. Feared by goaltenders, revered by GMs across the NHL, Michael Ryder has earned his stripes as one of the game’s top snipers, especially on the power play.
Since breaking into the NHL as a 23-year-old late-bloomer in 2003-04, Ryder has lit the lamp with such regularity that he would make a perfect spokesperson for All-Bran or Metamucil. Having sat out only two of a possible 248 games so far in his career, the now-27-year-old has quietly notched at least 25 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons. With only five other Habs having managed the rare feat, including Guy Lafleur, Mats Naslund and Jacques Lemaire, Ryder finds himself in some impressive company. Not too shabby for a player chosen 216th overall at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
Ryder is among NHL’s the most dangerous scorers on the power-play over the past three seasons.
Ryder’s productive 2006-07 campaign also saw him become the highest scoring player to ever come out of Newfoundland, thanks in large part to his good friend the power play. A huge fan of AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, Ryder springs into action once the Bell Centre DJ cues “Thunderstruck”, the Habs power-play anthem. While much of the credit for the Habs’ top-ranked power-play unit last season went to Sheldon Souray’s heat-seeking blasts from the point, Ryder was hardly an innocent bystander as the Canadiens converted a whopping 22.8 per cent of their opportunities. With 18 of his 30 goals coming with the extra-man, Ryder ranked third in the NHL behind only Teemu Selanne (25) and Souray (19).
Ryder’s prowess with the man advantage was no fluke either. One of just seven NHLers to have hit double digits in each of the past three seasons, only Ilya Kovalchuk, Selanne and Jonathan Cheechoo have done more damage on the power play than Ryder over that span.
Here’s some free advice for the Habs' Game Presentation crew: Anyone considering altering the DJ’s play list for the upcoming season may want to leave one song in heavy rotation at the Bell Centre for the foreseeable future. Call it a hunch.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com