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2019-20 Player Review: Scott Laughton’s season defined by puck luck, utility

The forward set a career high in goals and played all over the lineup.

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It was only a few seasons ago that it looked as though Scott Laughton was a bust. Although he may not live up to his potential of going 20th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft it’s safe to say the former OHLer serves a beneficial role for the Philadelphia Flyers at the NHL level. After a few rough seasons for himself and the penalty kill, Laughton was part of a special teams’ unit that finally moved up to the top half of the league in terms of success for the first time since 2013-14 and managed to deposit his highest number of goals in a single season despite playing under 50 games. With an improvement to his own play and positive impact on the club overall let’s take a look at Laughton’s 2019-20.

By the numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots On Goal Shooting %
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIMs Shots On Goal Shooting %
49 13 14 27 26 74 17.6

Despite the fact he missed 20 games due to injury and the Flyers as a whole had their season shortened by 13 games, Laughton managed to produce a career-high 13 goals in the 2019-20 regular season. It’s an impressive feat considering he accomplished the mark in just 49 games while he’s participated in three other seasons where he’s played in 71 games or more, but that’s a pretty good indication the former Oshawa General may have been a bit lucky this year when it came to firing the puck. His 74 shots on goal and 122 total shot attempts last year were his fewest of the four seasons he has played in 49 games or more (2015-16, 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20), but he managed to rack up 13 tallies thanks to a sky high 17.6 shooting percentage. Considering the fact he never finished a campaign with a shooting percentage over 9.3 in his first six seasons in the NHL it’s safe to assume that Laughton may see a drop in his conversion rate for 2020-21. That’s not to say if he keeps getting minutes in the top six or ups the rate at which he gets puck on net that he can’t set another career high next season, it’s just that his high shooting percentage and a few other numbers we’re about to dive into indicate he might not be as fortunate next year when it comes to tossing the disc at the cage.

5v5 Individual Stats

Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Goals/60 Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
1.21 2.53 10.51 0.5

The theme of luck continues in this section, as the forward set career highs in points-per-60 and goals-per-60 at 5-on-5 despite the fact he had his lowest individual shot attempts-per-60 and second-lowest Expected goals-per-60 rates of his career. His 1.21 goals-per-60 and 2.53 points-per-60 at 5-on-5 in 2019-20 outpaced the career highs of 0.63 and 1.88 that he set in 2015-16. Those rates came while his 10.51 shot attempts-per-60 marked the second time in his career he finished under 11 for a season (10.84 in 2018-19) and the fact his 0.5 Expected goals-per-60 was only better than his 0.45 pace in the five games he saw in his rookie campaign of 2013. Again Laughton can go out in 2020-21 and produce better goal and point rates at 5-on-5, but if he posts the same rates next season we might see a drop in his goal and point totals.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi-For % Corsi-For % RelTM Expected Goals-For % Expected Goals-For % RelTM Goals-For % PDO
Corsi-For % Corsi-For % RelTM Expected Goals-For % Expected Goals-For % RelTM Goals-For % PDO
47.3 -6.03 46.63 -7.57 61.11 104.2

Unfortunately for Laughton there are more stats to indicate he might regress in 2020-21. Although his 47.3 Corsi-For percentage isn’t out of the norm and his 46.63 Expected goals-for percentage was the lowest of his four seasons with 49 games or more Laughton managed to post a 61.11 Goals-for percentage, a career high by exactly 10 percent. For context of the 334 forwards that skated 500 or more minutes at 5-on-5 across the league in 2019-20 Laughton finished 28th with his 61.11 GF% and 280th with his 46.63 xGF%. Of the 36 forwards with a 60 GF% or better he was one of four to post under a 47 xGF% (Nazem Kadri, Chris Kreider, and Joonas Donskoi were the others). To make matters worse his 104.2 PDO was 10th out of those 334 forwards. A stat that combines on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage that should end up close to 100.00 (lower than 100 is considered unlucky, higher is considered lucky), Laughton was due for a bit of a lucky stretch after he had PDOs of 99.0 or worse in four of his first six NHL seasons. That being said 104.2 is another sign the skater was a bit fortunate in 2019-20 and he might find himself receiving some bad puck luck in 2020-21.

Three burning questions

Did this player live up to expectations this season?
Although the majority of this article up to this point sounds like ‘Laughton got lucky’ last season it’s hard to argue that the forward had a stellar campaign. After he set a career high in goals during the regular season Laughton had three goals in the round robin (with a two-goal performance against the Washington Capitals) along with two goals in the three win-or-go-home contests against the New York Islanders in the second round including the overtime tally in Game 5. On top of his production head coach Alain Vigneault utilized him in a variety of ways this season, as he was placed on both the wing and down the middle in the top six and bottom six. Laughton and Hayes had chemistry this season as the tandem found success with Joel Farabee early in 2019-20 (53.52 CF%, 51.21 xGF%, and 67.29 GF% in 128 minutes at 5-on-5) and Travis Konecny later in the season (62.41 xGF% and 79.01 GF% in 60 minutes). If he keeps producing at 5-on-5 and is able to keep the penalty kill above average he’s in line for another successful season in 2020-21.

What do we expect from this player next season?
A drop in his goal total. Laughton should expect to see around the same amount of ice time next season in two of the game’s three phases, but as indicated above it’s fair to question if he’ll continue to convert shots into tallies at the same rate. His high PDO hints that his high GF% should probably drop a bit as well. In terms of usage it’s safe to say Vigneault will likely move Laughton up and down the lineup based on the team’s needs for injury replacements or attempts to find chemistry.

What would we like to see this player improve on?
Driving play. Laughton has only broken 50 CF% or a 50 xGF% in one of the four seasons where he’s seen regular ice time. Even though he found success with Hayes, Konecny, and Farabee last year he still finished 11th in CF% and 12th in xGF% among the 12 Flyers’ forwards that saw 300 minutes or more at 5-on-5. On top of that six of the seven skaters he spent the most time with at even strength last season had a higher CF% with other linemates than him. With his point production and ability to kill penalties at just a cap hit of $2.3 million there really isn’t much to complain about with Laughton’s presence on the team, but if he could manage to help keep the puck in the offensive zone more with whoever he’s thrown over the boards with at 5-on-5 the Flyers could be an even bigger threat at even strength next season.

*Stats courtesy of, Hockey-Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and Evolving-Hockey