by Adam Kimelman || NHL.com
It was the summer of 2008, and Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was watching his players sweat through a three-mile run during the Flyers’ rookie development camp.
One player in particular, Darroll Powe, stood out to him. The Flyers had signed Powe to a minor-league contract in April 2008 after Powe finished a four-year career at Princeton University.
"I’m thinking, ‘What’s this kid thinking?’" Holmgren said. "It’s about 92 degrees and the same humidity, and he’s got a Princeton education and could be making $150,000 a year working in some bank."
But for Powe, there’s no price tag you can put on living your dream.
"It’s not really a grind when it’s your passion, and that’s what hockey has always been for me," Powe told NHL.com. "I enjoyed school and did well at it, but that was work for me. With hockey, I get to wake up every morning and do what I love every day. You can’t put a price tag on that. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I love mucking it up in the corners, I love the physical aspect of it. I love everything about the game. To be able to do that as a career, that’s something I think I’m very lucky to have. For me it’s not even an option, Wall Street or hockey. It’s been hockey my entire life."
Now Powe is living that life as a rookie third-line center for the Flyers. He started the season in the American Hockey League, but has had a permanent home in the NHL since being recalled for the second time Dec. 4. In 30 NHL games, the 5-foot-11, 212-pound forward has two goals, four points and 16 penalty minutes.
"He’s a very consistent player, which is what you like from a guy on your third or fourth line," Flyers coach John Stevens told NHL.com. "You know exactly what he’s going to do. He goes straight ahead with pucks, he’s probably one of our fastest-skating players. When a guy skates that well and plays as hard as he does, you try to find a spot for him."
The truest test of a coach’s faith in a player is ice time, and Powe seems to have earned the trust of the coaching staff. He’s played at least 10 minutes in nine of the last 10 games, and it was more than 13 minutes per night in the three games prior to playing Ottawa on Thursday.
"There’s no question we have confidence in Darroll," said Stevens. "He’s started to kill penalties for us. … We’re very confident with him on the ice. We like what he brings. We’re starting to use four lines more than we have maybe earlier in the year and that’s something we’re going to continue to do, and guys like Darroll allow us to do that."
When the Flyers visit the Rangers on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), one of those lines will feature Powe playing wing on a line centered by Mike Richards with Scottie Upshall on the other side. That’s a speedy, pesky trio of puck hounds that can cause problems for the opposition.
"He’s a guy you can rely on out there," Upshall told NHL.com. "That’s something he’s shown our team this year, that he’s a guy that can be counted on to go out there. He can kill penalties, he can muck it up, an energy guy. At times he’s one of the fastest guys out there, he battles hard. He goes about his business in a serious manner. He’s a quiet guy, he works extremely hard. I think he’s got a bright future."
A natural center, Powe has no problem playing on the wing if it means extended NHL minutes.
"I’ve played every position throughout my career," said Powe. "I feel pretty comfortable wherever I am. Wherever they put me I’m happy to play there. It’s been fun. You get to see the game from a lot of different angles, maybe get more of an opportunity than if I played just one position. I’ve enjoyed moving around a little bit and learning different things from different players in different positions. I’m trying to learn as much as I can this year. Wherever I’m playing, that’s where I’m playing."
He’s playing a role slightly similar to the one R.J. Umberger played for the Flyers last season. While not as offensively skilled as Umberger — it’s doubtful Powe will score 10 goals in one playoff season like Umberger did in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs — that versatility is important to a team.
"He’s kind of Mr. Everything," All-Star center Jeff Carter told NHL.com. "We’ve been able to throw him out on different lines all year and he’s done great."