Matt Read and the 2011-12 Flyers: Why I'm not holding my breath

Couldn't find any legally available photos of Matt Read, so I screen-capped YouTube. /cheap

We're getting a lot of search hits on our "Matt Read signs with the Flyers" story lately, and I guess that makes a little bit of sense: Paul Holmgren has said more than once that he likes the kid and thinks he can challenge for a spot on the Flyers next season, and several reporters have echoed the company line on the guy as well. 

And sure, Read was dominant in college with Bemidji State, and of course the fact that he has a one-way, NHL contract is enough to make everybody think he belongs in the NHL, especially when that's the story the organization is selling. Keep in mind that the only reason he has that one-way contract is because he's 24 years old. 25 on Tuesday.

But, quickly, two things about Matt Read that make me hold my breath. Here are his stats since his freshman year:

Season (Age) Team League GP G A P +/- PIM
2007-08 (21) Bemidji State Beavers NCAA 36 9 18 27 37
2008-09 (22) Bemidji State Beavers NCAA 37 15 25 40 50
2009-10 (23) Bemidji State Beavers NCAA 37 19 22 41 32
2010-11 (24) Bemidji State Beavers NCAA 37 22 13 35 34
2011 (24) Adirondack Phantoms AHL 11 7 6 13 9 6

His numbers are extremely impressive, especially those college numbers. Basically a point per game player in college, the best player on his team. But of course, the caveat: he's like 90 years older than his competition. When do most players start college? Around 18 or 19, graduating at 22 or 23. Read was two or three years older than that during his freshman season.

Two years doesn't make a difference when you're an NHL veteran. When you're in college, it makes a huge difference. There were surely shifts during his senior season where Read was playing against kids six years younger than him. That's important when understanding how he dominated the college ranks at almost a point-per-game level. 

At the same time, just glancing at his AHL numbers with the Phantoms last season leaves you impressed as well. 13 points in 11 games is no slouch. Of course, he only played 11 games. How much can we really read into that (no pun intended)? 11 games in the AHL is no indication of anything. He's played 11 pro games in his life. 11 games.

How many games? 11 of them. 

Also, keep in mind that in the time we took our trip to Glens Falls (Read's pro debut weekend), he was playing with the top line in Adirondack. Not sure if that continued for the entire 11 game stretch, but in any event, he was seeing time with some darn good line mates -- like Denis Hamel, 86-year AHL veteran. 

I'm not saying this to shit on Matt Read or anything. He was impressive with the Phantoms at the end of last season, seems to have a good head on his shoulders and could be a player in the NHL next season or at some point down the road. It's a nice signing by Paul Holmgren, too. 

But let's just keep in mind: he's been playing against younger kids -- not bigger, stronger men -- for all but 11 games of his hockey career to date. He's never played a full season in the professional ranks and we have no idea how he'll hold up over the course of a long, 82+ game season.

Here's what Phantoms coach Joe Paterson told us back in March about the adjustment period for a college player as he joins the AHL:

Well I think for those players individually it's just a longer season. You've got a guy like Mike Testwuide who comes from college and now, the number of games he's played, it's like two years of college for him. So the preparation for him on game day, he has to be a lot more prepared because we're playing so many games.

It's different than college where you're playing maybe once or twice a week and then you have a long period off, whereas we can play -- right now we're in a stretch where we have six games in eight days, so he has to be mentally prepared for it.

In short, we're not going to know what we're getting from Read until he plays a full season in the pro ranks. If he joins the Flyers out of camp next year, that's fantastic and I'll be happy for him and the team (even if, still, we're not truly going to know what we're getting from him until midseason or beyond). 

But there's literally no reason to expect him to fill in for Ville Leino or any of that craziness right now, just because Paul Holmgren says that's a possibility. The Flyers want to talk up their young guys -- especially because, really, they don't have many young guys. Let's not just take them at their word for it.

Read might be a strong player some day. It might happen sooner rather than later.

But please, can we not get ahead of ourselves?

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