The Philadelphia Flyers have a good track record with late first-round draft picks. Selections ranging from Simon Gagne (22nd overall, 1998) and Claude Giroux (22nd overall, 2006) to Justin Williams (28th overall, 2000) and Steve Downie (29th overall, 2005) have gone on to become highly productive NHL players.
The Flyers have also never been afraid to use their first-round picks on players who were widely projected before the NHL Draft to be selected significantly later. Most famously, the Flyers used the sixth overall pick of the 1991 Draft to take a forward whom Central Scouting and The Hockey News predicted would be picked late in the first-round or early in the second. The player’s name: Peter Forsberg.
In the 2012 Draft, the Flyers used the 20th overall selection to take Oshawa Generals center Scott Laughton. Ranked 28th among North American skaters by Central Scouting (12 spots higher than his midterm rating), Laughton is a savvy and physical two-way center.
“At the draft it didn't really sink in until I came home and came over here [to Voorhees], so it's a really nice feeling and I'm just really honored to be picked,” Laughton said after the first day of the Flyers Summer Development Camp.
The Flyers believe Laughton, who scored 21 goals and 53 points in 64 Ontario Hockey League regular season games last season, has untapped offensive potential to go along with his defensive ability and grit. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren likened Laughton’s future potential to that of New Jersey Devils standout Adam Henrique and former Flyers captain Mike Richards. The player himself cited Richards and Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan as comparison players. Meanwhile, a scout for a Western Conference NHL club compared Laughton’s NHL upside that of former Selke Trophy winning forward John Madden.
Of course, it will take several years before the full extent of Laughton’s abilities start to become clear. For now, the player is getting his feet wet at his first Development Camp and trying to gain the benefit of the knowledge offered by camp instructors such as Ian Laperriere and Derian Hatcher.
“It's one of the best organizations in the world,” said Laughton. “They have guys who have played in the NHL for over 1,000 games so [the goal is] to kind of just learn from them and see what they think.
“It's a surreal feeling, I mean you don't really know what to expect, and to go out on the ice and you've got Ian Laperriere running the drills and you watch him play in the NHL for forever. It hasn't really sunk in but just an unbelievable experience.”
Laperriere, who was recently named the organization’s director of player development liked what he saw of Laughton on the first day of the camp after also seeing him play for Oshawa last season in conjunction with defenseman Colin Suellentrop, a Flyers’ fourth-round pick in 2011.
“There [was] a lot of players out there on the ice on the first day of camp, younger and older, but sometimes you can look out at someone and see right away why he was a first-round pick,” said Laperriere. “You can see it just in the way a player like Scott handles the puck. You can see it in someone’s attention to detail. He is also someone who really loves the game and has the will inside him to get better. Scott’s got a bright future.”
Competitive drive has never been a question mark with Laughton. He is a fundamentally sound player and a sturdy skater who excels in doing the little things it takes to win hockey games. What has taken just a little bit longer to emerge at the junior level has been the offensive game that made him a dominant midget hockey force for Toronto Marlies; GTHL club.
Despite his ordinary-looking OHL offensive numbers last season, Laughton has come a long way offensively over the last year. After posting 23 points as an OHL rookie in 2010-11, he represented Canada at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and scored the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game. The tournament gave him considerable confidence, and he went on to enjoy a strong second season in the OHL. Later, he went on to play a key defensive shutdown center role for Team Canada’s bronze-medal winning squad at the 2012 Under-18 World Championships.
Having Generals teammate Suellentrop on hand at the Flyers Developmental Camp has been helpful to Laughton. Suellentrop already knows the ropes, having been through the experience a year ago.
“We’re rooming together, so he's helping me out a lot and giving me pointers and what to expect,” Laughton said of Suellentrop.
While anything is possible, it is likely that Laughton will return to Oshawa next season at the conclusion of training camp with the Flyers. As an 18-year-old, he is not yet eligible to play in the American Hockey League. Come next season, he will be expected to take on an increased offensive role for the Generals while continuing to line up against other teams’ top offensive players.
The player does not want to look too far ahead, either next season or beyond.
“I will do whatever the Flyers ask of me,” said Laughton. “The biggest thing is just to try to play the game the right way, continue to improve and get stronger. I’m really not sure of the timetable for me right now to play [in the NHL], but this is a great team and it’s honor to be part of the organization.”