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Does Matt Read stand a chance in hell of making the Leafs?

  • Ilya Mikheyev
  • Jason Spezza
  • Pontus Aberg
  • Nic Petan
  • Kenny Agostino
  • Jeremy Bracco
  • Egor Korshkov

These are players seemingly ahead of Matt Read in the battle for the bottom six wing roster spots…

If we assume that Marner starts the season unsigned and Hyman will be injured for a while the Leafs will start the year as such…

LW C RW
Johnsson Matthews Nylander
Moore? Tavares Kapanen
Mikheyev? Kerfoot Spezza?
??? Shore ???
Gauthier?

There’s a few leaps in there already, as I’m assuming that all the talk about Kerfoot as the third line center isn’t coming out of nowhere and that’s 100% the plan. The fact that Mikheyev and Spezza are the most high profile of the remaining group probably puts them somewhere in the lineup barring a disastrous training camp, and that it makes sense to carry extra centers, and that Shore is better than Gauthier, who I’d argue might be a valid person to consider in the wing conversation as well, but I’ll save that for another post (sorry).

Anyway, back to Read. Really he’s duking it out with Petan, Aberg, and Agostino, and at least one of the winners of these battles will face an uncomfortable truth as Hyman’s return nears. So let’s look at the tale of the tape on the main contenders…

Matt Read Pontus Aberg Nic Petan Kenny Agostino
Age 33 25 24 27
Height 5’10 5’11 5’9 6’0
Shoots Right Right Left Left
NHL GP 12 57 18 27
NHL Goals 1 12 1 4
NHL Points 1 25 3 13
AHL GP 61 2 0 12
AHL Goals 16 1 0 4
AHL Points 37 2 0 10
Ontario Boy? Yes! Swede! BC :'( ‘Murica
CF% 51.88 51.44 53.67 52.97
xGF% 52.37 47.4 46.4 50.86
GF% 41.67 43.86 30.77 50.94

So Read definitely wins points for being a local boy, veteran presence, and was a solid performer in the AHL. His limited NHL CF% and xGF% weren’t too bad either, potentially his right handed shot will come in handy. The other players offer more of a chance of a future with the organization as they are younger, especially in the case of Aberg and Petan, and both Aberg and Agostino have more recent NHL results to their name beyond just showing they can be better than they were last season. Agostino is seemingly a front runner here, with Petan potentially being even more of a long shot than Read, although he at least has a contract already.

Adding to the challenge for Read is that he’s now two seasons removed from being a regular in the NHL. Last season with the Wild he was limited to 12 games, and the year before with the Flyers he played 19, also only tallying one goal without any assists. The three seasons before that Read produced 8, 11, and 10 goals respectively, not really showing a tremendous amount of upside if he does manage to sneak into the Leafs roster.

So why even talk about Read, who apparently doesn’t score a lot, is small, and is older than the rest of the pack?

The answer is two things, with the first being closely linked to the second…

  1. Speed is number one. The fact that Read has speed to burn is something the Leafs forward group has been all about, and if he’s still fast enough at 33 to make a difference, well we might be revisiting the Matthew Lombardi situation of a few years ago, not that any of us particularly wanted to see a return of Matthew Lombardi. The fact of the matter is that speed on the 4th line could be a good thing, especially if Freddie Gauthier is somehow still the center, because as you might have noticed, Freddie doesn’t move too fast.
  2. The second thing is the penalty kill. Read has been a penalty regular for the Flyers for a number of years before finding his way to Minnesota. The idea of having a speedy winger who can intercept passes and potentially create some offense isn’t exactly a new strategy, but potentially one the Leafs are looking to lean on outside of Kasperi Kapanen doing that on the first unit. With Hyman injured, Marner without a contract, and Connor Brown deported, the Leafs have vacancies in the forward group, and Read is a solid option that might earn the trust of Mike Babcock.

Verdict

Matt Read is probably just hanging around with the Leafs until training camp is done. Maybe he’ll work out a bit longer, maybe he’ll sign an AHL deal, but it seems like a tall order to expect him to make the Leafs on the strength of shorthanded ice time. Read also provides a bit of security if the Leafs decide to waive Petan, Agostino, or Aberg and they are claimed, and for that matter if the same is true of likely Marlies like Wilson or Gaudet. He’s someone who could step into the NHL or AHL roster and add value. The reality is that he’s probably not a Plan B at this point, but he’s a Plan C or D and it will at least be interesting to see who he plays with and in which situations.

Personally, with the exception of Brandon Prust, it’s hard not root for the PTO guys. This is their last big kick at the can of playing in the NHL, and while they know the odds are against them they’re still going out there and making their case. All the best to Matt Read who will at least be counting as a veteran in exhibition games and will allow the Leafs to sit Matthews, Tavares, and others against teams dressing an army of goons looking to make their case for AHL jobs.