There is worse news than becoming yesterday’s news, as long as, in the course of being relatively forgotten, Scott Laughton remembers how good he can be.
“It’s tough sometimes,” he said about not yet being a Flyer. “But at the end of the day I am 21 and still learning a lot.”
At the end of every day at Development Camp spent salivating over the three defensemen the Flyers took in the first round during the last three drafts, Laughton, the center they took in the first round in 2012, has moved one day closer to being pretty much what the scouting community always said he was going to be: A gritty and competitive guy who will play in the NHL.
“That was the biggest part of my game coming up from junior,” Laughton said. “I was always known as defense first.
“When I got drafted here a lot of people said, ‘He is a defensive center, doesn’t put up a lot of numbers.’ I think I proved in my last year of junior that I can be an offensive guy too, but defense was always first to me. That’s what I am going to have to do this year to try and earn a spot, be a good, reliable guy.”
You can always rely on some guys who critique the guys trying to make it to the NHL to start the clock running too early. If a first-round pick doesn’t make it fast, it will be suspected he’s never going to make it at all.
That 2012 draft, when Laughton went 20th overall, wasn’t especially loaded, leaving little reason to believe the Flyers were going to hit a home run, only draft a character player who, in due time, would play for them.
The organization had little intention of doing anything other than having Laughton spend the 2014-15 season with the Phantoms, then have him to camp this fall with a chance to break in. Laughton started and ended well at Lehigh Valley. But when injuries forced his recall, he struggled in 31 games with the Flyers, scoring only six points until taking a shoulder to the shoulder and head from Washington’s Matt Niskanen on January 14 and missing seven games with a concussion.
Two games after he was healthy enough to play, the kid was sent back to Allentown, where he struggled some more before only in the last two weeks getting his legs back.
“Six points in 31 games isn’t going to cut it,” said Laughton, but that said, he needs to be cut a break. Nobody exactly said he had the playmaking skills to be the next Steve Yzerman. Laughton’s strengths, a hard shot off a quick release, strong work along the walls, and drive to the net, may eventually make him a winger. Either way, an irreproachable work ethic should get him to the NHL.
How soon? Depends on what position Brayden Schenn plays, Depends on how well Sam Gagner, so far the only forward veteran forward acquired in the offseason, does. Also depends in general how new coach Dave Hakstol wants to play it.
But it will not depend upon how hard Laughton works. That’s always been a given, making him the captain of Canada’s 2014 World Junior Tournament team, and attitude always remains a gift that keeps on giving a high pick a chance. Mostly what Laughton has going for him is an understanding of what its going to take not just to get here, but to stay here.
“I am ready to be an NHL player and be a reliable one,” he said. “I am excited to come to camp and prove that I belong here.”
“I definitely want be here to start the year. But if I am playing and learning in the minors then that’s what it takes. I don’t want to play for five years and be out of the league. I want to be a reliable guy for 10-15 years.”