Former Bemidji State captain Matt Read is a National Hockey League All-Star at the halfway point of the season.
The Philadelphia Flyers rookie is in Ottawa this weekend with some of the world’s top players and trying his best to take in the experience.
“So far it’s been pretty interesting just walking in the same room with pretty much all the NHL superstars,” said Read, who was one of 12 rookies named to the All-Star roster. “It’s such a whirlwind. Last year I was at school and now I’m sitting here in Ottawa at the All-Star game.”
None of the rookies will play in Sunday’s game, but Read hopes to participate in Saturday’s All-Star Skills Competition (6 p.m. NBC Sports Network, CBC). There are six different events and at least one rookie from each team must participate in each event.
“The most accurate shot I think I’d be decent at, but it’s going to be hard to put up a competition against all the superstars that are here,” he said.
Read was in Ottawa for Thursday night’s fantasy draft selected by All-Star team captains Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa and Zdeno Chara of Boston.
Read said he spent time talking with rookies Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers), Craig Smith (Nashville) and Justin Faulk (Carolina). All three played college hockey: Hagelin at Michigan, Smith at Wisconsin and Faulk at Minnesota-Duluth.
Read also met with NHL All-Star veterans Corey Perry of Anaheim, Tim Thomas of Boston and Shea Weber of Nashville.
“Right now I almost feel like a fan and am just trying to enjoy everything,” Read said. “It’s obviously a great honor and hopefully something I can take part in again as a superstar and play in the game.”
Read is the seventh former BSU player to skate in the NHL an the second to be named an NHL All-Star. Gary Sargent, who played three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and five seasons with the Minnesota North Stars, was named to the 1980 team but did not participate due to injury.
Read graduated last spring as Bemidji State’s all-time leading scorer in the Division I era (65 goals, 143 points) and signed a three-year contract with the Flyers days after the season ended.
He played 11 games with Philadelphia’s minor league affiliate Adirondack in the American Hockey League to close out the year and made the Flyers roster out of fall training camp.
The Ilderton, Ontario native has played in 45 NHL games this season, appeared in the HBO ’24/7′ documentary series and played in the NHL Winter Classic game against the Rangers earlier this month.
His 15 goals leads all rookies and he has 16 assists for 31 points. Only Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (35) and New Jersey’s Adam Henrique (34) have more rookie points than Read at the halfway point.
Read recalled his two most memorable moments so far the season: his first shift and first goal.
He played in the season opener Oct. 6 in a nationally televised game on the road against defending Stanley Cup champion Boston.
“My first shift in the NHL, I went into a corner with Zdeno Chara and stole the puck from him,” Read said. “When I got back to the bench I was like, ‘holy cow, did that really just happen on my first shift?’”
He scored his first career goal in the next game two days later against a future Hall of Fame goaltender in New Jersey.
“Scoring my first goal is something I’m going to remember the rest of my life,” Read said. “I can still see images in my mind of getting the puck, shooting and celebrating a goal on Marty Brodeur. Not many guys can say they scored their first goal on Marty Brodeur, so that was special.”
Read’s orange Flyers jersey T-shirts have been selling at the Sanford Center and are common sightings among all the green during Beaver games at the arena.
Read said people wearing the shirts have sent him photos on facebook and by text message.
“Bemidji has the greatest fans in college hockey and probably the world there,” he said. “They are very loyal and it’s a great honor. I never expected that really. It’s pretty neat to have your own little jersey up there and having friends and family in Bemidji wearing it.”
Like the shirts, the All-Star game is another special experience for Read in what has become an unforgettable rookie season.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Read said. “Maybe Saturday night when we’re doing the skills competition on the ice with all of those guys and having fun out there, it might hit me a little bit.”