Early Risers

Dobber Sports





Preseason success isn’t always a good indicator of regular season success, however, for prospects it’s one of the few times to make a significant impression. Introductions are in order for four prospects who have had outstanding training camps/preseasons and have likely earned themselves at least a few call-ups throughout the season if not a spot on the NHL roster.


Matt Read – Philadelphia

Read, 25, is tied for sixth in NHL preseason scoring with two goals and six points in six games to go along with a tidy plus 4. Formerly a centre in college, Read is comfortable on the wing where he’ll likely play for the Flyers if he can oust Andreas Nodl from the third line left wing spot. Nodl suffered concussion problems in the 2011 playoffs and is currently injured. The Flyers haven’t released the nature of the injury, but if Nodl’s  noodle is concussed, look for Read to grab his spot and his points on the third line. Read’s cap hit is similar to Nodl’s so the Flyers are auditioning him for Nodl’s spot giving him an average of 18 minutes of ice time a game. Read was a two-way, point per game player for Bemidji State University (Minn.). In March, Read signed a three-year free agent deal worth $2.7 million with a cap hit of $900,000 this season. The Flyers thought enough of him to give him a three million dollar deal, he’s producing well in the preseason and his fellow line mates will be Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. There is a potential for 40 points for the 5’11, 185 pound winger this season.

Evgeny Grachev – St.Louis Blues

Grachev is following the typically slow development of a power forward. He seems to have been a prospect forever but the 6’4, 225 pound Russian is still only 21. It’s time to pay attention to him as Grachev is starting to produce, albeit only in the preseason. Grachev has four points in four games (all wins). He was first star in two games, is plus 2 and the Blues are giving him 17 minutes of ice time a game. After being transitioned from centre to wing, Grachev was groomed to play a power game and with three goals in four games he’s starting to play that way. With left winger David Perron passing his baseline (concussion) testing Sept. 29th, he appears to be on the mend, but there is still no timetable for Perron’s return. That’s important for Grachev owners because Perron’s return would likely send Grachev back to the minors. That might not be all bad for the big winger’s offensive development as he scored only 16 goals and 38 points in 73 games for Connecticut in the AHL. Whether that happens or not, Grachev has had an amazing camp and has served notice that he’ll be playing in the NHL sooner rather than later.

Jake Gardiner – Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto President and General Manager Brian Burke gave Jake Gardiner a ringing endorsement on the FAN 590 Sept. 28th.

“He’s not that strong yet, but boy can he skate,” said Burke.

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When Burke traded for Gardiner he told him he would put him in the minors as he’s done with other high picks including Dustin Penner and Bobby Ryan.

“I normally put my guys in the AHL,” said Burke. “I said (to him) he’d be in the minors but not for very long.”

Burke said he’d like eight defensemen on the roster but only wants to dress six. That’s going to make it difficult for Gardiner to make the team no matter how well he has played in the preseason.

“Jake has to play if he’s going to be here. If he does stick, that’s (Komisarek) probably going to be his partner.” said Burke.

The Leafs have veterans Keith Aulie, Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarson, Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles, Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn set to join the NHL roster. That doesn’t bode well for Gardiner making the team unle