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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: Scott Laughton eyeing bigger role, expectations

It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but progress has been made and more is on the horizon.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Like every team, the Flyers have had their hits and misses in the first round of the NHL Draft over the past few years, but the next player on our rankings lies somewhere in between. It’s going to be an important season for Scott Laughton, and he has a chance to really swing the narrative surrounding his early career with a strong one.

We had Laughton in the same exact spot in our Winter rankings, and this feels right for a player that has promise, but has also been dragged down by a lack of production and a lack of usage as a result. The good news is that he stuck in the NHL all year despite the dreaded Dave Hakstol effect on young players, and that trust could go a long way in helping Laughton reach more of the promise that he showed when the Flyers took him 21st overall in 2012.

No. 9: Scott Laughton

Position: C
Age: 24 (5/30/1994)
Size: 6’1”, 190 (via)
Acquired Via: 2012 NHL Draft — Round 1, Pick 21
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - 10 G, 10 A in 81 GP
Nationality: Canadian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: 9

The thing with Scott Laughton is that once you get over the fact that he’s probably not going to live up to his draft status there’s a lot to like. And that totally okay, because he’s already way better than Hugh Jessiman.

Offensive upside was the question mark before his career got started and those concerns have become legitimate at both the AHL and NHL level the past few years as Laughton has just 47 points in 190 career games. But beyond the goal-based struggles, Laughton is a good skater with versatility and hockey sense that can prove be useful for the Flyers going forward even if the offense never arrives.

There’s a chance the Flyers know that too, because two years ago they sent Laughton to the Phantoms to essentially learn how to become an efficient bottom-six NHL player. He killed a load of penalties, worked in the faceoff dot, and on his defensive game as the Flyers used the season to try and maximize his talents in a new role.

The move was a prudent one with Laughton anchoring the fourth line this past year, notching career highs in goals, hits, shooting percentage, and faceoff percentage. The 24-year-old also posted solid possession metrics including a career-best in Corsi For (51%) and Corsi Relative (2.0). Those numbers don’t blow you away, but it’s a start and some progress. I’ll add that he started 52.6% of his time in the defensive zone this past season after enjoying predominantly offensive zone starts in his last extended NHL action in 2015-16.

As always there has to be context for those numbers and some of that with Laughton comes with exactly who he shared those fourth line minutes with. The Flyers’ seemingly year-long revolving door of fourth line wingers didn’t much effect Laughton in the end, a small kudos to the young pivot. Most of Laughton’s line combinations posted Corsi marks north of 50%, though goal-based metrics weren’t kind with most of them under 40% per NaturalStatTrick. That gels with amount of goals the fourth-line wingers produced —or lack thereof— with guys like Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera, Michael Raffl, and Dale Weise struggling to find the net rather unsurprisingly.

But with a gaping hole at 3C heading into the season, Laughton is a natural candidate to jump up from the fourth line and fill that need. With the signing of James van Reimsdyk in free agency, the Flyers are even deeper at forward up front and likely slot Wayne Simmonds in on the third line. Throw second-year winger Oskar Lindblom on that line and it’s certainly an intriguing trio. While perhaps not the most defensive of trios ever assembled, it would at least make for a more skilled line that Laughton has played with to date in his career and perhaps spark some of the offensive skill that he showed in juniors not long ago.

Given the Flyers’ move with Laughton two years ago, it’s likely that they aren’t counting on him to develop into much more than a bottom six forward at this point. It’s unclear just what sort of leash the coaching staff would give Laughton should he win the job, but the Flyers could have easily brought back Valtteri Filppula to fill the role if they wanted to and didn’t. Ron Hextall has also been unclear on whether or not a younger prospect like a Morgan Frost would be able to make the jump from junior so Laughton’s chances look as good as any at this point.

The fact that Laughton is more or less nearly a finished product at this stage of his career is both good and bad. He’s an NHL player, proving that a season ago, but there isn’t enough in that sample size to suggest that he’s going to score more in the same role or produce more in a more prominent one. The good news is that with a good camp and barring anything unforeseen, Laughton could open the season as the Flyers’ third center and have a huge opportunity to prove himself in the organization and cement his value going forward.

How We Voted For Scott Laughton

Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
6 14 10 15 9 10 13 8 9 10 10 9 9 9 10

How We Voted At No. 9

Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Bill Brad Craig Jake Jaypo Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Steph Steve Community
Robert Hagg Oskar Lindblom Joel Farabee Jay O'Brien Scott Laughton Joel Farabee Jay O'Brien Philippe Myers Scott Laughton Robert Hagg Mikhail Vorobyev Scott Laughton Scott Laughton Scott Laughton Robert Hagg

How The Community Voted For Scott Laughton

Ranking # of Votes
Ranking # of Votes
1 0
2 2
3 1
4 19
5 21
6 40
7 53
8 82
9 105
10 112
11 82
12 85
13 62
14 55
15 49
16 35
17 47
18 27
19 30
20 20
21 15
22 13
23 8
24 10
25 5
NR 38

Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25: