Matt Read was on the golf course last June when friends came running up to him with the news that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter had been traded.
They said, hey, this is great for you, recalled the 25-year-old center. I said, well see.
His initial thought reflected their own: maybe there would be a spot in this Flyers training camp for a guy who can play multiple positions and was a late bloomer in college.
Now there is a hole or two in the lineup and it gives me a better shot I guess, Read said. But at the same time, I have to worry about myself and show up every day.
Philadelphia is trying to do the best they can to make the best lineup and be a Stanley Cup contender again, I thought they picked up some good players and started to question myself whether I be in lineup or not.
Indeed, the additions of Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek make it difficult for Read to knock one of them off the roster. But the 13th forward spot is definitely a viable candidate up for grabs.
On Sunday, Read worked left wing on Danny Brieres line with Jaromir Jagr. Not bad.
Pretty nerve wracking, Read said of playing with them. You grow up watching those guys on TV. Idolize those guys as a kid. Being on a line with them, I wanted to do the best I could without screwing up the drill and not get them mad at me. It was fun. Good to pass the puck with those guys.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said Read will get a long look in camp.
This is our first look at him in practice and exhibitions, Laviolette said. Eventually, those things will sort themselves out. Its not just Matt Read you are talking about. You can throw in 12-15 names.
At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Read is the first American-born Flyer since Joel Otto to have played collegiality at Bemidji State in Minnesota.
Most people never heard of the school, Read admitted. Its due south of Winnipeg and the Canadian border, roughly four hours north of Minnesota.
Going to college was probably best thing for me, said Read, who spent two years in junior before enrolling at Bemidji State. I was a late developer.
When Read graduated high school in 2004, he decided he would need a college degree at some point, in case he failed to make a living playing hockey.
During his sophomore year, Read took the Beavers to the Frozen Four with a team-high 40 points. Despite being overlooked by the NHL in the draft he stuck with hockey. The Minnesota Wild had their eyes on him, and so did the Flyers.
Two years ago, Read decided to use a 24-hour NCAA visit to attend a Flyers playoff game against Montreal. He met a lot of people within the organization.
Everyone you talked to great organization, great people who are focused on winning, Read recalled of his visit. I got back to my hotel room that night and felt this was the best place to play.
The history and tradition and great people who played here back in the day. Something I wanted to be part of.
Last May, the Flyers signed him to a three-year, 2.7 million contract. He could have come out of college earlier, but admitted that it was economically wise for him to remain in school till his senior year. Instead of signing an entry-level deal, Read was able to get money as an overage player.
Additionally, he said he wanted to take Bemidji State into a new arena his senior year. Thats when the offers began to come. Read said he remembered back a year earlier when he came to see the Flyers in the playoffs, sat in the stands and watched.
A light went on in my head, Read said. He knew he would sign with the Flyers.
The competition he faces is that of Sean Couturier, the Flyers top draft pick from the summer, Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk, at the very least.
Matt is a real smart player, said general manager Paul Holmgren. When you watch him play, he looks like a hockey player. How quickly it translates into jumping to the NHL, I dont know.
Read said he wasnt sure where he fit as a pro until he got to the Phantoms last spring scoring 13 points in 11 games.
The first couple games, getting system down and I finally figured it out and felt I was one of the better players up there, Read said. It finally clicked. This could turn into something special.
It would be very special if he makes the Flyers roster.
I think I have a good chance, he said. There are a lot of guys they look at right now. You have to be realistic and worry about yourself.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com