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Growing up outside Philadelphia in Bucks County, Evan Barratt spent his younger days rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers while pursuing his own hockey career.
Now 24 years old, Barratt is living out his professional hockey dreams as a forward for the Reading Royals, Philadelphia’s ECHL affiliate, and is one of two prospects on the team signed to NHL contracts with the Flyers.
“It’s definitely very cool,” Barratt said. “I obviously love it. It’s nice being close to home.”
While he is playing in the farm system of his hometown team, it took Barratt some time to adjust to his new role in Reading. Barratt was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks organization to the Flyers organization on Oct. 26, 2022, and later found himself playing in the ECHL for the first time in his career.
After making his Royals debut on Dec. 7, the potent goal scorer netted just five goals in his first 25 games. The forward also appeared in two games for Lehigh Valley, recording an assist.
“It definitely took a little bit to settle in,” Barratt said. “I wouldn’t say I was playing bad; the bounces weren’t going my way.”
Things have turned around for Barratt, as he has scored 13 goals in his last 10 games, with four multi-goal performances. He also has four assists during that stretch.
“He’s having fun,” Reading coach James Henry said. “That’s one of the biggest things. When Evan first joined the team, he was kind of in a place where hockey wasn’t the most fun part of his day. Things have really turned around. He’s got that confidence back.”
Barratt’s career began to blossom in his teenage years, when he was a member of the United States national team developmental program. He had 40 points in 58 games with the United States U17 team during the 2015-16 season, and 56 points in 63 games with the U18 national team in 2016-17.
Barratt, a Bristol native, was drafted by Chicago in the third round of the 2017 NHL draft, but deferred his professional career and instead took his talents to Penn State. After a quiet freshman year, Barratt burst onto the scene during his sophomore season.
Barratt had 16 goals and 27 assists for the Nittany Lions in 2018-19 to rank second on the team with 43 points. He set the program record of 11 straight games with a point, and was nominee for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the top player in NCAA Division I hockey.
“(Penn State) Coach (Guy) Gadowsky is one of the best people alive,” Barratt said. “He’s just an unbelievable person. I think I grew more off the ice than I did on the ice.”
— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) November 4, 2018
Barratt had 12 goals and 22 assists for the Nittany Lions during the 2019-20 season, ranking second on the team with 34 points. Penn State’s season was cut short when the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) November 9, 2019
Barratt is one of six members of that Nittany Lions team who have appeared in an AHL game this season. One of those six players is forward Brandon Biro, who made his NHL debut with Buffalo last season.
“We were loaded,” Barratt said about the 2019-20 Penn State team. “Guys are everywhere (now) and doing well. It’s fun to see.”
Barratt began his pro career with Rockford, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, during the 2020-21 season. He had 14 points in 27 games.
“The AHL is a hard league,” Barratt said. “You got to be ready to play every night.”
Barratt returned to the IceHogs for the 2021-22 season and recorded 28 points in 63 games. He played in two games for Rockford at the beginning of this season before he was traded.
“I want to get back there, and I think I can,” Barratt said about the AHL. “I think I’m able to play and produce in that league. I learned so much.”
While he works to get back to the AHL, Barratt has been able to use his vision and hockey intelligence to become a productive player for the Royals. Barratt is tied for third on the team with 18 goals, and has 34 points in 35 games.
“I think I’m a pretty smart player,” Barratt said. “Sometimes I don’t have the fastest feet, but I think I could be half a step or a step ahead of people just by reading the play a little better.”
Barratt has gelled well with his new teammates, including fellow forwards Charlie Gerard, Jacob Gaucher and Alec Butcher.
“He’s a great guy, and our chemistry is just getting better and better each game,” Gerard said. “He’s a humble kid and he’s doing well.”
Barratt scored his first hat trick of the season on March 4 in a win over Trois-Rivières and followed that with another hat trick on March 11 in a victory over Newfoundland. He was selected as the ECHL Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 27-March 5.
“I’m playing with a lot of great guys, so it makes that very easy,” Barratt said about the hat tricks. “I’ve been able to mesh with guys really well. It’s an attribute of mine. I’m able to play with a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.”
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Royals are in second in the ECHL North Division with 74 points, 10 behind division-leading Newfoundland. A big part of Reading’s success has been its offense, which ranks third in the Eastern Conference with 214 goals.
“I think everyone is just playing hard for each other,” Barratt said. “When everyone is working for each other, guys push themselves a little harder and a little further on the ice.”
The Royals have won four of their last six games thanks in part to Barratt, who has scored seven goals in the last six games. He also had three assists.
“He’s playing well with his linemates,” Henry said. “Anything that we are asking of him, he’s finding a way to bring his best.”
With success in his first year in Reading, Barratt has settled into his new team and his new home — not far from home.
“My friends come to every game and my family comes a lot,” Barratt said. “I think that’s awesome.”
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