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Powe brings an Ivy League touch to Flyers

Go ahead and call Darroll Powe a nerd. His teammates do it every once in a while. It's just a way of teasing him for being an Ivy League graduate. It's not the normal route to the NHL for a Canadian kid.

Go ahead and call Darroll Powe a nerd.

His teammates do it every once in a while. It's just a way of teasing him for being an Ivy League graduate. It's not the normal route to the NHL for a Canadian kid.

But if you're not a friend of his and you call him a name and he's on skates, well, a good head start is advisable. He just might be the faster skater on the Flyers right now.

"I haven't put a stopwatch on him yet but he's got to be up there," said coach John Stevens. "He's so quick, he gets on top of people so quick and he gets up ice.

"He's a north-south player and he gets on guys. He's very easy to read off, but he gets to where he wants to in a hurry."

Getting places has been a trademark for the 23-year-old winger from Saskatoon. He went from western Canada to Princeton University to the American Hockey League and finally to the NHL, where he is living out his dream.

Powe was called up to the Flyers from the Phantoms in October and played three games before going out injured, only to come back up to stay on Dec. 4.

It is fair to say that Powe's emergence as a steady player on the Flyers was improbable. He certainly had choices coming out of college. An Ivy League education usually means open doors in the real world.

He graduated with a degree in sociology; a classmate is already working as a consultant on Wall Street. Powe probably could have parlayed his education into a job or continued on to get a graduate degree, but his first love and interest was playing hockey.

So instead of going into the working world, Powe signed as a free agent with the Flyers in March 2007 and started working on his NHL degree.

He played 11 games with the Phantoms that season and played the entire season last year. He impressed Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren enough that when he got to camp this season, he got a serious look from Stevens to make the Flyers.

After he played three games, he suffered two injuries, a concussion and a hip flexor. Since his return he has played 30 more games, with three goals and three assists.

"This year is going well so far," Powe said. "Obviously my first goal was to get in the league and now the goal is to improve every day, and that's going to be my goal through my career.

"Right now, I'm in a checking role, but I don't put any limits on what I think I can achieve. My goal is to get better and become more of a complete player and see where that takes me."

His game is a simple one. He uses his speed to either get in on the forecheck, get back on defense, or move through the neutral zone and to the net with the puck.

He has played on a line with Claude Giroux and Scottie Upshall, and as the season has progressed, he's improved. It's safe to say that even when Danny Briere returns, there will be a place for Powe.

Briere, who is now back at practice and is a possibility to play this weekend, said he is excited about having Powe on the team.

"Guys like him, they're kind of the glue," Briere said. "Hard-nosed players that make it hard on a team. He's a great player. I really like him and with his speed, that adds to our team tremendously. Just having another guy that skates like the wind adds to our team speed."

When approached with the notion that a kid with a Princeton education is an NHL rarity, Powe counters with a few names.

"There's been a trend lately with guys coming out of the college ranks," Powe said. "And it's not as unlikely as you think, guys coming out of the Ivies and playing. There's been a bunch of guys coming in the league right now and there will be more to come.

"Just in my graduating class there are two who are close and in the league right now there are two other Princeton guys, George Parros [Anaheim] and Jeff Halpern [Tampa Bay]."

For now hockey is what Powe is going to do for a living, and after hockey, well, he hasn't thought about it.

And about that nerd business?

"Yeah, well the guys call me that at times, but I don't take it too personal," Powe said. "I've got a degree in my pocket so they can call me nerd or whatever as much as they want. I just laugh it off. I don't think I'm a nerd, but it just comes with it." *