Scott Laughton has made the Flyers… kind of. Yes he’ll be in the opening day line-up filling in for Danny Briere on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read. Most of the MSM is using the line of thinking of ‘if he helps the team immediately, keep him up.’ While I agree he’s an upgrade over guys like Shelley, Rinaldo, and Sestito I don’t think that he should be kept past his allotted 5-game tryout to play a defensive role like Sean Couturier was last year.
Last year there were so many question marks as far as which forwards were going to be the ones used to check top players and who would kill PKs. We had Giroux, Talbot, Simmonds, and Wellwood---a very questionable group of defensive specialists. There was some expectation from Brayden Schenn to help out on the back end, but he was really up for his offensive abilities with only a side of "shut-down". With that said, not only did Couturier fit a massive hole in our PK but he was also our 10th forward which I think people forgot about. We had a lot of injuries last year (as with any year) and with back-to-back 96 point junior seasons under his belt it wasn't a stretch to say that Scooter would be a productive top-9 player, which he ultimately proved to be when injuries to top-9 players gave him the opportunity.
The thing with Laughton is we don’t need any more defensive forwards on this roster. With Talbot, Coots, Giroux, Schenn, Fedetenko, and Matt Read, we have 6 guys who are all proven NHL penalty-kill guys (Schenn not as proven but he'd compete with Simmonds as the "6th PK guy") not to mention Eric Wellwood and his future PK abilities. Laughton, once Briere returns, doesn't have a role in the top-9 and with Fedetenko and Wellwood also looking from the outside in at the top-9 it's not a lock that Laughton would be the first fourth liner to get a top-9 spot like Coots was last year. Laughton has 31 points in 30 games this year after scoring roughly 50 in 60 games last year. I am all for defensive oriented forwards but I think keeping him up here to be a defensive specialist 4th liner makes no sense from a hockey perspective.
The main difference between Coots and Laughton is the fact that Sean Couturier had nothing left to prove in juniors. He had 223 points from age 15-17 in juniors. Playing against kids wasn’t going to help Sean Couturier develop anymore. He made the World Junior team as a 17 year old last year compared to Laughton who didn’t make the team as an 18 year old this year. Laughton did not play in any junior games as a 15 year old (Couturier had 31 points in 58 games as a 15-year-old), had 23 points in 64 games as a 16 year old (Coots had 96 in 68), had 53 points in 64 games in his 17-year-old draft year (Coots had 96 again in only 58 games due to a bout with Mono), and just crossed the point-per-game mark this year as an 18-year-old with 33 in 32 games. In two and a half junior seasons from age 16-18 Laughton had 109 points in 159 games compared to Couturier’s 192 points in only 126 games during his 16-17 year old seasons.
This all boils down to one fact: you do not draft grinders in the first round. You cannot expect Scott Laughton to develop his offensive game while riding the pine next to Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley. You might say ‘but they did it with Couturier!’, but as you can see in the above paragraph, Coots had nothing left to prove in juniors. He was a man amongst boys and he played like it. He was the top offensive player in the league two years in a row. Scott Laughton just isn’t at that level yet and he needs to develop. If he kills it in his tryout with 8 points in his 5 NHL games, then we can re-evaluate, but there is nothing to suggest that he will be anywhere close to PPG in the NHL game.
I want to clarify an issue by saying that I think these few games along with a few weeks of living the NHL will be great for Laughton’s development, if we send him down at the end of it opposed to letting him rot on the bench. He needs to continue to put up PPG numbers in juniors over the course of a full season if he wants to progress his offensive game.
In conclusion, I want to say that this article is why we should keep Laughts down from a hockey standpoint. The contract issue is a totally different topic that only adds to the point to keep him down. Letting his entry level deal slide for a year or two before kicking in is extremely important for a team who eventually will have to sign Claude Giroux to a Crosby/Ovechkin type deal and other future stars like Braydon Schenn and Sean Couturier. People saying the Flyers always rush kids up to the league can look at Captain Claude to prove that this is not the case. Giroux played two full junior seasons after being drafted. He didn’t even get a try-out year one, but did get a 2 game stint in 07-08 wearing number 56 (twice 28).
With that said, in roughly 24 hours hopefully we’ll be celebrating a 1-0 record!