By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
With the 2017-18 NHL season just around the corner, there are a few Philadelphia Flyers who have to fight for a roster spot. After what most considered a surprise move, Scott Laughton was protected in the expansion draft. That must mean general manager Ron Hextall sees something in him after many have written him off as an NHL star or even regular contributor. It’s time for Laughton to plead his case to make the Flyers roster to open the season.
Starting from the beginning, Laughton was drafted 20th overall in 2012 and was quickly the crown jewel in a shallow Philly prospect pool. After failing to make the Flyers roster for two straight years questions about his potential were raised. Once Hextall took over as general manager he wisely built up the number-one ranked prospect pool in the league, meaning Laughton has faded into the background.
Laughton was an impressive player for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, recording 132 points in 176 games over three seasons, but has failed to translate that offensive success to the NHL level. He found himself in a full-time role with the Flyers in 2015-16 playing in 71 games but only recording 21 points.
The main issue for Laughton is his lack of offensive abilities, yet he is not a top defensive forward either. Essentially he’s no Claude Giroux, but he’s no Sean Couturier either. Now with Nolan Patrick in tow, the Flyers are deep down the middle.
After the Flyers cleaned house of the bottom six, it did open a roster spot on the fourth line, a spot the will probably be fought over by a couple different players. Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione and Laughton want to make the Flyers’ roster to start the season, and will have to earn that spot.
Laughton took a big step forward in the AHL during the 2016-17 season, registering 39 points in 60 games, while noticeably enhancing his defensive game. If he can bring an improved defensive game, while also contributing a solid offensive game, he will be a much-needed asset to the Flyers’ bottom six and obviously a great improvement over Chris VandeVelde or Pierre-Eduard Bellemare.
Last time Scott Laugton was in a Flyers uniform, his linemates were Ryan White and VandeVelde. This season his linemates could be any of Jori Lehtera, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Mike Vecchione, or Matt Read. That’s already a huge improvement in his linemates, which should also play a role in Laughton’s success this season.
While he has been in the Flyers’ pipeline for five years, he’s still only 23 years old with plenty of time to still develop into a solid two-way player. After signing a new two-year deal right before development camp ended (July 11) he has another chance to prove he can be a true NHLer.
Laughton may not be the offensive dynamo everyone thought he was when he was drafted, but that doesn’t mean he’s a failure or bust. The organization simply has to re-calibrate his potential, meaning instead of shooting for him to be a second-line center and putting up 50 points a season, he can be a relied-on bottom six center who is responsible in his own end while also chipping in offensively when he can.
Consensus is Laughton will make the team out of training camp, but where he slots in is where the question mark lies. There has to be a reason Hextall protected him in the expansion draft, but with guys like Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom fighting for roster spots as well, to go along with Vecchione and Leier, the path to the NHL wont be an easy one for Laughton, yet it’s not too late for him to make his mark in a Flyers uniform.
Image Credit- hockeysfuture.com