Let me say this up front, I don't think Laughton will stay with the team for the season. I Believe he will play five games or until Briere comes back, which ever comes first. Right now Laughton has enough skill to play at the professional level. After seeing him in training camp and in the first two games we can see his passing is crisp, his speed is decent, and his shots are hard and fast. But so much more goes into playing the pro game than those skills, especially for a player like Laughton who is expected to play more of a defensive role with the team. Laughton's size will be an issue this season with the Flyers. During a 5 on 5 drill during the practice at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night Laughton was consistently out muscled by Ruslan Fedotenko. Feds isn't a particularly big forward, and his ability to push Laughton around prevented the Flyers first round pick from utilizing his skill set.
While we saw him make some good plays against the Buffalo, he spent much of the first half of the game on the bench. His role expanded partially due to the injury to Zac Rinaldo and partially because his fresh legs were able to jump start a slow moving Flyers offense. But still he was out muscled on the forecheck by the offensive defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and was physically overwhelmed in front of the net by Robyn Regher on what would have been an easy tap in goal. Laughton who has always been more touted for his toughness and defensive ability simply doesn't have the size and experience to play at this level for a full season.
And that's not a problem. Scott Laughton is in no rush to make this team. For starters there is not really a place for Laughton in the line up once Briere returns to the lineup. He would get more ice time and valuable experience playing on the first line with the Oshawa Generals in the OHL then he would playing on the fourth line with the Flyers. I think fans look at a player like Sean Couturier and see how a first round pick can contribute to the team in a big way. But Couturier and Laughton are completely different animals. First, Couturier's offensive game was vastly superior to Laughton going into the draft. Couturier put up 96 points in 68 games as a 17 year old with Drummondville in the QMJHL. Couts then followed that up with another 96 point effort in 10 fewer games in his draft eligible year. Couterier wouldn't have gained anything from returning to juniors after being drafted. Couturier, who was at one point projected to be drafted 1st overall, would have dominated the league both offensively and defensively but his growth as a player would have been stunted.
Laughton on the other hand still has a lot to gain from playing in juniors. That paired with limited spots on the roster leads me to believe Laughton will be sent back to the OHL not only for this season but next season as well. That would allow him to develop his strength and offensive game in Oshawa and could possibly allow him to play for team Canada at the World Juniors next December. Even players like Claude Giroux and San Jose Sharks All-Star center Logan Couture played two seasons in juniors after being drafted and spent time in the AHL. Returning to the Oshawa Generals could be the best thing to happen to Laughton.
Now, why I don't believe Laughton wont make an impact this season, down the road he could prove to be an incredibly valuable asset. While Laughton's point production in OHL hasn't been spectacular, his numbers compare well with another NHLer. No, I'm not talking about Mike Richards who Laughton was unfairly compared to after he was drafted, I'm talking about Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly put up 55 points last season with the Avalanche and was their top defensive forward. Many pundits around the league have called O'Reilly Colorado's best player last season. O'Reilly's height (6'1), defensive fortitude, and OHL point production compare quite well to Laughton. After making the struggling Avalanche's roster as an 18 year old O'Reilly struggled his first two seasons, putting up only 26 points in each of his first two seasons, before breaking out last year.
This leads to another issue with keeping Laughton this season. O'Reilly is currently playing in the KHL because he isn't getting the contract he wants from the Avs. He burned the first two seasons of his Entry Level Contract on mediocre seasons with a bad Colorado team. Why would you spend a year off of Laughton's Entry Level Contract on this shortened season when the Flyers could let him develop even further before he plays his first full season.
Still, the more you compare Laughton and O'Reilly the more similar they appear. If Laughton can develop into a Ryan O'Reilly type player, even if it is two, three, or four seasons down the road he will be a great player for the team and possibly one of the biggest steals of the draft.
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