Ray Sheppard

There was never any doubt that Ray Sheppard could score goals. He led the entire Ontario junior hockey league with 81 goals in just 63 games in his final year of junior hockey in 1985-86. He added 61 assists for a league high 142 points. But there was always concern about his skating ability. He's too slow, and not agile enough to play in the National Hockey League the experts said. He also had little interest in the physical game.

Ray prove all the experts were wrong. Using his nose for the net and his spectacular shooting skills, Ray went on to an explosive career that included 357 goals and 657 points in 817 NHL games. He definitely made up for his shortcomings. He may not have been the speediest player but he managed to get himself open for scoring opportunities. And he may not have initiated a lot of physical contact, but to spend as much time as he did among the dangerous NHL slots and creases proved he was more than willing to take the physical punishment to do what he did best - score goals.

Ray had a quiet rookie professional season. Playing with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League in 1986-87, he scored a respectable 18 goals in 55 games. But in the AHL post-season he found his explosive scoring touch. He tallied 12 goals in 15 games. Suddenly Ray was a serious prospect with a great chance of making the NHL.

Ray made the National Hockey League the very next season, and starred immediately. He was named to the NHL All Rookie Team thanks to 38 goals including 15 on the power play. He added 27 assists for 65 points, good enough to finish second behind Calgary's 51 goal scoring rookie Joe Nieuwendyk in Calder Trophy balloting for the NHL's rookie of the year.

Ray suffered through a bit of the dreaded sophomore-slump the following season as his totals fell to 22 goals and 43 points in 1988-89, but that sure beat his terrible 1989-90 season. That year he missed all but 18 games of the season while recovering from a terrible ankle injury suffered in a game vs. the Quebec Nordiques.

The Sabres let Ray go after the bad injury. They sold him to the New York Rangers. Ray recovered enough to play in 59 games and prove that he could still play at that level, scoring 24 goals and 47 points.

Ray became a free agent after that 1990-91 season, and he opted to sign on with the Detroit Red Wings. For parts of 5 seasons Ray starred along side the likes of Steve Yzerman. He never scored less than 30 goals, even in the lockout shortened season of 1994-95 when he played in just 43 games of the 48 game schedule. The previous year, 1993-94, Ray had his best professional season, scoring 52 goals and 93 points.

Despite his great personal success in Detroit, the Red Wings were never able to reach the level of Stanley Cup champions until a couple of years after Ray left the team. Ray was traded to the San Jose Sharks early in the 1995-96 season, as the Wings received the crafty veteran Igor Larionov in return. Ray didn't even get to finish the season in San Jose before he was sent to Florida at the trading deadline. He would actually have two stints in Florida before his career ended, sandwiched between a stop in Carolina. He also played a season in Europe before retiring for good.

In 817 NHL games Ray scored 357 goals and 300 assists for 657 points


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP