The Flyers can’t find much fault with Scott Laughton.
They can’t yet find room for him either, which compliments the organization’s depth at center as greatly as members of the organization compliment the next good one they have coming.
“Scotty is a versatile guy,” says Chris Pryor, the Director of Scouting, during Player Development Camp. “He made an impression on us early on because of his play without the puck, the biggest part of the game prospects have to learn, and this year he complimented his game offensively.
“He is a solid two-way center. I don’t know if he is any more one than the other. He can distribute the puck and shoot it and plays the game the right way, competitively from the goal-line out.
“All those attributes in one player are hard to find.”
They almost are as hard to find as a potential spot of Laughton on the 2014-15 Flyers, who have a Hart Trophy finalist in Claude Giroux and two developing fourth-year centers in Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
Even if Vinny Lecavalier is moved, GM Ron Hextall is not going to make a fourth-line player out of the 20th player taken in a draft. Neither will Laughton break into the NHL at wing, a position he never has played. So it is going to take injuries, not just a big exhibition season from Laughton, to put him on the roster in October.
“I know he is going to come to camp trying to make this team,” said Pryor. “A lot of guys have that attitude but at the end of the day patience is a virtue.
The only rush would be to judgment that Couturier, the eighth player taken in the 2011 draft, is not going to become a 50-60 point a year player, or Schenn, the fourth player taken in the 2009 draft, is not going to increase his compete level as the Flyer throw more responsibility at him. The Flyers have too much invested in both players to make that call just so they can push ahead another prospect who has to prove he is better than the previous two.
Laughton returned to Oshawa last year to be a point-a-game player, plus captained Canada’s World Junior tournament entry at a point-a-game clip, too, impressive preliminary evidence that the Flyers have made another successful mid-to-late first round pick. But with Hextall taking the GM’s job with a declaration that the Flyers will not eat their young, Laughton is going to first get an opportunity to be the Phantoms best player.
He says he blew an opportunity a year ago with a disappointing camp, that he has a chip on his shoulder this time, and that he will play the wing or sweep the floors to be a Flyer opening night. You wouldn’t want him to be saying anything less, but practically in the next breath, Laughton also makes clear he understands this is a process.
“I got sent back to junior this year and took it pretty well,” Laughton said. “I just turned 20 and am trying to get better every day.
“I want to be in the league 15 years from now, not play in it at 20 and be out of it soon. Hopefully I can make a roster spot. But it I can’t, I will try to move forward.”
Just because the elevator seems to go all the way up on this kid is no reason to skip a floor.