A one-hit wonder usually refers to a musical artist who achieves fame with one song, but fades back into obscurity once the next best thing arrives. But sometimes that phrase can apply to athletes as well.
Matt Read went undrafted during his college career at Bemidji State where he quietly got better each of his four season with the team. He signed with the Flyers in March of 2011 after his senior year came to an end and spent the remainder of the 2010-11 season with the Adirondack Phantoms where he scored seven goals and 13 points in 11 games.
Read made the Flyers roster out of training camp for the 2011-2012 season and had came out of the gate strong. He scored his first goal against Martin Brodeur in his second NHL game, posted a four-point night during his fifth NHL game, and by season’s end led all rookies in goals with 24 and was fourth in points with 47. He finished fourth in Calder voting behind Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and eventual winner Gabriel Landeskog.
Read, along with teammate Nick Grossmann opted to sign with the Södertälje SK of the Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan during the 2012-13 lockout. That team was filled with NHL talent, both of the time and in the future, including Carl Hagelin, Cam Fowler, Anton Forsberg, and Jonathan Ericsson and a pair of sixteen-year-old kids by the name of William Nylander and David Pasternak. Read scored six goals and 24 points in 20 games before returning to North America when the season finally started in January.
He posted a respectable season in the lockout year with 11 goals and 24 points in 42 games, including his first career hat trick in a 7-1 drubbing of the Florida Panthers.
At this point a promising two-time 20-goal scorer, Read signed a four-year, $14.5 million ($3.6 aav) contract at the dawn of the 2013-14 season. It could’ve turned into a great value contract had he continued his rise, but the 2013-14 season was a difficult one in Philadelphia. Peter Laviolette was fired just three games into the season and was replaced by Craig Berube, a mere thee weeks after Read signed his extension.
Read was still a big contributor in 2013-14, posting 22 goals and 40 points in 75 games. He was fourth in the team in goal scoring and one of seven Flyers to hit the 20-goal plateau. It would be the last worthwhile season of Read’s career.
Like most Flyers of that era, the rapid changes in the coaching staff from Peter Laviolette to Craig Berube and later Dave Hakstol in the course of just two-and-half years rocked the boat when it came to playing styles. Lavy’s run-and-gun offense-heavy game suited Read well, but the heavier defense-first game of Berube did not.
Team scoring overall was down in the 2014-15 season. There were only four 20-goal scorers and only five players managed to eclipse the 45-point mark. Read, who went from a secondary scorer to being deployed as a defensive-minded bottom-six forward, managed only eight goals and 30 points in 80 games.
When newly appointed Dave Hakstol took over for the 2015-16 season, any magic Matt Read once possessed was long gone. he recorded just 22 goals over the following 161 games spanning three seasons before he was demoted to the Phantoms from late October 2017 to early March 2018. His contract, which once looked like a steal turned albatross, was not renewed for the 2018-19 campaign and he became a free agent, eventually signing a league minimum deal with the Minnesota Wild organization where he spent most of the year in the AHL.
Read had one last kick at the can in 2019-20 when he signed a PTO with the Maple Leafs and although unable to secure an NHL contract, he was signed to an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies. He has not played professional hockey over the last two seasons. While not officially retired, at 35-years-old may not have an opportunity to resume his career.
Who knows what it was that ultimately derailed Read’s career, but the promise he once had compared to the player he was at the end were polar opposites. He transitioned well to a defense-first player and was an excellent penalty killer, but it always felt as though he had more to give and never quite lived up to his potential.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)