While a handful of players who are in the lineup tonight took part, there were three who stayed on the ice a bit longer – because they are expected to be healthy scratches tonight.
The two defensemen weren’t much of a surprise – Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gill appear to be the No. 7 and No. 8 defensemen on the roster for now.
The forward though, may have been a bit more of an unexpected sight – Scott Laughton.
Laughton, 19, widely considered the Flyers top prospect, made the team out of training camp for the second straight season.
He was excellent in camp in January as an 18-year-old and plaed the first five games of last season before being returned to his junior team in Oshawa where he had an excellent season.
Based on that performance, and his work during the summer, Laughton appeared to have an inside track on a roster spot.
He earned that, but not a start on opening night.
While it’s quite possible that Peter Laviolette’s decision to not start Laughton and go with Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill on the fourth line instead has more to do with the fact that the Flyers opponent is a big, bruising and tough Toronto Maple Leafs team, it’s also a bit disappointing for Laughton that he can’t be part of the opening night excitement for the team.
“I’m happy to be here on the roster, but you’re always disappointed too when you can’t be in the lineup to help contribute,” Laughton said. “This is the first time in my career that I’ve been a healthy scratch, so it’s definitely a new experience. But I’m trying to stay positive and work hard every day to get into the lineup.”
|Scott Laughton has been thinking a lot about his place on the Flyers right now. He admits it's difficult, but he has to put it out of mind and just play his game to earn a start. |
Laughton admitted that his training camp this season wasn’t as good as it was last season. Maybe, as a young player who got his first taste of professional hockey last season, he came into camp a little overconfident, and it might have hurt him.
However Laughton feels like after a rough start to camp, he saw his work and his performance improve as the days counted down to the season’s start.
“I had a pretty rough first few days and in the first couple games I don’t think I played to my ability,” Laughton said. “But I started to get my legs under me and camp got better and I was building on it as we got into the season. Hopefully I continue to get better and get into the lineup here soon so I can help the team win.”
Laughton’s immediate future remains in flux. The Flyers can keep him on the roster as long as they wish and don’t have to make a final decision on him until he plays nine games in the NHL this season.
At that point, the Flyers must decide whether to keep Laughton on the NHL roster, and start the first year of his entry-level contract, or to send him back to Oshawa, where he would remain for the entire season.
There is some school of thought that returning him to junior might stunt his development because he is too good for that level of play, but there is also a belief that if he can’t play regular minutes for the Flyers, then it would be better to get him playing regularly, even if it’s not against the ideal competition.
Either way, it’s something that is in Laughton’s head every day, and something he tries not to think about, but sometimes, can’t help it.
“It’s definitely stressful,” he said. “You’re staying at a hotel and you don’t know what’s going to happen. It always weighs in the back of your mind and you never know what’s [next] so you have to take it one day at a time. That’s what I’ve been trying to do and staying positive. That’s been big for me – to stay on track and not get ahead of myself and get too down. I just want to stay on an even keel.”
If he does that chance will come… maybe as soon as this weekend in Montreal or Carolina.
The Flyers announcement this morning that Steve Mason would start the opener came as a mild surprise as well.
Mason and Ray Emery had similar preseason numbers, and they weren’t eye-popping by any means.
Mason had a better goals against average (3.00 vs. 3.30) but Emery had a better save percentage (.888 vs. .868).
However, Mason played with far less NHL talent in front of him in his three games than Emery did, which would hint that his numbers would probably have been better with a full roster in front of him.
Plus, the Flyers staff really like the way Mason handles the puck, which helps the defense and ultimately assists the breakout as well.
That said, both goalies are going to see a lot of time in goal this season, and Mason getting the start tonight shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than he’s up first in the early season rotation.
“Both goaltenders played well but we have to have a starting point here,” Laviolette said. “Steve came in at the end of last season and really played terrific for us. Either one could have started, but we had to choose. Based on what Steve did at the end of last year and they way he came into camp in shape and how he played in camp… Both goaltenders you could have made a case for either one, we had to make a choice and we went with Steve.”
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