The Philadelphia Flyers are in the midst of a youth movement and despite the fact that the team acquired two rookie first-round picks last summer, the biggest rookie contributor this season might come as a bit of a surprise. At 25-years-old, Matt Read could be considered a little old for a rookie but he has already made an immediate impact for the Flyers this season – so much so that the NHL named him the league’s third of the week, last week.
Read made the team thanks to an impressive showing during training camp in September and he has made it difficult for the Flyers to send him down to the Adirondack Phantoms due to his hustle and ability to score. Read spent the last four seasons playing collegiate hockey for Bemidji State University before signing a free agent contract with Philadelphia last March. The former NCAA first-team All American has made the most of his opportunity but he has been somewhat lost in the shuffle early on thanks to the crop of highly touted prospects the team is cultivating.
When the Flyers went out and traded for Brayden Schenn of the Los Angeles Kings it was apparent what they were getting – a player with limitless potential who had all the makings of a superstar in the NHL. It would certainly take time to cultivate his talent but thanks to an injury, the Flyers really haven’t been able to get a good idea of what the 20-year-old is capable of doing. The Flyers’ other first-round pick – Sean Couturier – was drafted by the team eighth overall back in June and has been more effective than Schenn early on this season. Already Couturier has been praised by coach Peter Laviolette as the team’s best defensive forward and his five goals and three assists as a member of the Flyers’ fourth line are quite impressive but pale in comparison to what Read has already accomplished.
Recently, the right winger has been on a tear scoring five goals in the last four games – the best stretch for a Flyers’ rookie since Mikael Renberg scored five goals in three games from Feb. 15-18, 1994. He scored twice this past Saturday in a 6-4 loss at Winnipeg to bring his season total to eight, which is first among rookies and tied for 20th in the league, while his 13 points are the fourth most among rookies.
Read’s recent hot streak could be due in large part to the groin injury to right winger Jaromir Jagr, which now has the rookie splitting time with two lines. Though he did practice on Sunday afternoon, Jagr’s status is still listed as day-to-day and the Flyers will certainly make sure the 39-year-old is completely healthy before he makes a return. Read has proven to be a valuable replacement which is beneficial because of the potential risk Jagr is, due to his age. Not to mention the fact that Read’s line mates have definitely helped.
On Saturday, Read shared the ice with Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux on one line and Max Talbot and Jakub Voracek on another line. The recent increase of time came just one game after Read scored the game-winning goal with 18.6 seconds left in an exciting win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Whether Read can continue his strong play and become an important piece to the Flyers’ puzzle remains to be seen but with the recent spike in ice time – from the low teens to almost 20 minutes per game – we might soon see just how good he can be at the highest level. Consistency will be the key.