Read between the lines: Prospect looks to make Flyers roster

Posted: July 11, 2011

Matt Read has now been through five NHL development camps on his road to professional hockey - which is a little like repeating kindergarten over and over.

Read, 25, is the oldest player in the Flyers' prospect camp by almost a full year. In fact, Read wasn't even scheduled to be a part of this summer's camp, which wraps up today at the SkateZone with a final on-ice scrimmage, which is open to the public.

Instead, Read volunteered to be at this camp, even though he had been through this drill before, most recently with the Minnesota Wild, one of many teams that tried to coax him out of Bemidji State in Minnesota to turn pro.

"He came in here on his own," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He wanted to take part, and I think that's a good thing."

Neither Read's eagerness nor age will earn him a different look when the Flyers' main training camp opens on Sept. 16. Read will entertain the eye of Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette for three reasons: his contract, his comprehensive two-way play and his noticeable impact last year on the Phantoms.

The Flyers signed Read to a 3-year, $2.7 million, one-way contract on March 23 following a 4-year career at Bemidji.

While Read still will have the flexibility and protection of waiver exemption, he still will earn more money than Blair Betts, Oskars Bartulis and newcomer Andreas Lilja no matter if he is in Adirondack or Philadelphia to start the season.

"We knew going in that that was the going rate for a high-level undrafted free agent," Holmgren said.

The Flyers were impressed with the results they saw when Read - a forward who doesn't stand out with his 5-10 stature - was a force to be reckoned with in 11 AHL games at the tail end of last season.

Read netted seven goals and six assists in just 11 games with the Phantoms.

"I saw him play at the end of the year and he was clearly the Phantoms' best forward," Holmgren said. "You could say, 'Who was he up against?' but Matt went in and was clearly the best player. We were real happy with how he played every game. He adapted to the level and the schedule."

Even though James van Riemsdyk was 4 years younger than Read when he transitioned from the University of New Hampshire to the AHL for the final seven games of the 2008-09 season, van Riemsdyk put up just one goal and one assist in the same number of games with the Phantoms.

Read credits his AHL adjustment to being a "quick learner."

"It wasn't easy, but it was very beneficial," Read said. "I got to go up there and play with some of their top guys. I surprised myself, for sure. I'm hoping that if I get a shot here [this fall], I can develop as quickly as I can into an NHL player."

Read was lauded for his complete, two-way game that can be better developed in the NCAA rather than major junior hockey, the starting point for most of the NHL's draft picks. He has all of the positive attributes - speed, physicality, forechecking ability - of a Darroll Powe-type player but with a scoring gift that sets him apart. He collected 65 goals and 78 assists in 147 collegiate games.

"Matt is a real smart player," Holmgren said. "When you watch him play, he just looks like a hockey player. How quickly it translates to jumping to the NHL, I don't know."

But where would he fit on the Flyers' roster? With their current salary-cap space, he might not crack the Opening Night roster, but he could be better served as a practice-squad player against NHL talent than game-in, game-out experience in the AHL. The Flyers regularly carry the maximum of 23 players. And it wouldn't cost them any extra to keep him.

Read's name is one of the few Holmgren has hyped this summer for a look at a possible roster spot, though that isn't a rarity. Mike Testwuide was last summer's overexposed, undrafted, free-agent du-jour, and he ended up with a relatively quiet first pro season in Adirondack. Ben Holmstrom, Eric Wellwood and even Zac Rinaldo ended up as the Flyers' first call-ups before Testwuide.

Read has received all of the same attention. Starting in September, he is the only one who can control how he is perceived.

"Obviously, the goal is to make the team," Read said. "We'll make goals from there. Hopefully when it comes time for the main camp, you're looked upon differently than some of the other guys."

|
|
|
|
|