Matt Read To Fill In For Jagr On Top Line

4 Jan

VOORHEES, N.J. — Matt Read nearly wasn’t a Flyer. He went to a camp with the Minnesota Wild before his senior year at Bemidji State, but opted to play his senior year. The Wild weren’t the only team interested in the Ilderton, Ontario native, but despite a guaranteed contract, he returned to college.

“He wanted to come back and lead us into a new building and also wanted to lead us into the WCHA,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore told Philly Sports Daily back in March. “He wanted to come back and graduate. We relied heavily on him the last four years.

“It was the right call because more and more teams obviously again, thought he could play for them. I think he gained more maturity. Again he was in a situation where he was a leader. He was our captain. He was put in different situations. He also gained a degree, which was very important.”

Then the Flyers came in and swept the graduate away with a three-year, $2.7 million contract. And it’s a good thing that he got all that experience as a leader where he was relied upon in a top spot with many people depending on him and pressure was a constant. For the next week and a half, he’ll be filling Jaromir Jagr’s skates on the top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.

Jagr is expected to miss up to 10 days with a left groin injury; that projects to around four games. Read has played left wing, right wing and center for the Flyers this year, so change is nothing different for him.

“I walked in and I saw I was on a line with them, I thought oh, Lavy made a spelling error there,” said Read. “I was excited. You probably only get one of these shots to make the most of one of these opportunities and you know I look forward to playing with those guys tomorrow night, and try to cash in on a couple points and help our team win.”

Read is second among rookies with 12 goals this season. He’s been a fixture on both sides of the Flyers’ special teams game. Being on the top unit will open up more opportunity for him to pad those stats. Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on the shelf indefinitely with a left shoulder injury, so now would be the time to catch him in the point standings.

“I think if I get out of my game a lot and try to make good plays, like what Jagr does out there, that’s not my game,” said Read. “I’m just going to try to stick to my game plan, work hard and win puck battles in the corner and get those guys the puck. They’re special players, they’ve got great talent, so I’ll just benefit from getting them the puck.”

Read has 12 goals and 10 assists in 34 games, putting him fourth in overall scoring among rookies, but he’s in a bit of a slump lately. He has one goal and three assists in his last 11 games. Putting him on the top line should alleviate that and Peter Laviolette is eager to see what he does with the latest challenge.

“Every time we’ve asked him to do something or needed a void filled, he’s been able to jump in there and contribute,” said the coach. “We’re just looking at it. There was practice today. I liked it. We’ll see.”

There is no doubt from his new linemates that he’ll be easy to work with, even if he’s not a sure-fire Hall of Famer like Jagr.

“I think he’s played every position, probably played with every guy on the team too – third line, second line and first line,” said Hartnell. “He’s a work horse, he’s got a good stick, and I think we’ll have a good game. I think he works hard and he’ll want to stay up on that top spot.”

Read’s determination coupled with versatility was one of the things that made him an attractive collegiate prospect and helped him get into the NHL. His coach knew that even before he graduated.

“He’s just got a lot of depth to his game,” said Serratore. “I think the biggest thing is he’s very, very reliable and that’s what Philadelphia’s gonna get is a very reliable player, an all-situational type player.”

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