Ryan Shannon is getting the chance to be an important player on a team again, and he’s thriving on it.
In the last dozen games, Shannon’s ice time has rocketed. He’s worked as much as 21:23 and no less than 15:20 a night, playing on both special teams and centring Ottawa’s second or third line.
Over the 12 games, Shannon has three goals and six assists — including power-play markers in each of the last two outings.
That has bumped his numbers on the season to eight goals and 13 assists, giving him a career-high 21 points. However, his most impressive stat could be his plus-1 for the last-place team in the East.
Only Shannon and David Hale are above the even mark for the Senators — and Hale has only played 14 games.
“(Shannon’s) doing everything we could ask from him,” said coach Cory Clouston. “He’s killing penalties, he’s doing a good job on the power play. We’ve asked him to play every position but goalie this year ... and he’s shown how versatile he can be.”
Shannon had 27 goals and 86 points in his first season as a pro, with the AHL’s Portland Pirates in 2005-06. But coming into the NHL with a good Anaheim team, there was no room for him as a Top 6 forward.
He had to refine his defensive game.
“I’ve had to adapt to playing less minutes,” he said. “The biggest thing you learn is being defensively responsible, and making sure you’re not making turnovers. And then when you get more playing time, you can use momentum ... it’s a better feeling.”
Said Clouston: “He’s definitely more useful when he plays more. He’s a smart guy. He’s a student of the game ... His speed and his intelligence are allowing him to have a lot of success right now.”
Shannon can become a free agent in July, but he’d like to stay. Ultimately, he’s aiming for a Top 6 role on the team. Some might think that’s a little ambitious for a guy who’s never scored more than eight goals in a season, but Shannon believes he can handle it.
“That’s the vision I hold of myself,” he said. “But that I don’t control. I’m just going out there and performing, when I do get the opportunity is what you have to really obsess about.”
In the meantime, the Darien, Conn., native hopes to get an invite to play for the U.S. at the world championship, before he and his wife welcome their first baby in July.
“This year has been tough for him,” said Clouston. “He’s kind of had to wait for his opportunity. Unfortunately, for him it came a little bit late, later than he wanted to, but right now he’s making the most of it.”