Teams that win the Stanley Cup always tend to have depth players that prove to be integral along the way, whether or it be during the regular to propel the club in or to get over the hump in the postseason — the Flyers are hoping on Scott Laughton being one of them at some point.
The 20th overall pick back in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has had quite the journey towards a regular role in the league, and has put in the work over the years in order to do it. A prime example being the 2016-17 season in which Laughton was essentially told to spend the year in the American Hockey League and remake his game — to focus on transforming himself into a shutdown bottom-sixer. And while we were subjected to a handful of inexplicable veterans — Chris Vandevelde, Valtteri Filppula come to mind — playing at the NHL level, Laughton took the task to heart and emerged the following year a different player.
Since re-inventing his game, Laughton has posted three 10-plus goal seasons and registered at least 20 points in each of the four seasons since. While that might not move the needle for everyone, he’s done so while serving as a Swiss Army knife throughout the bottom six at both center and wing when needed. He’s also been relied upon to take upwards of 56% of his shifts in the defensive zone — causing his possession metrics to naturally suffer as a result.
The Flyers rewarded Laughton for his contributions, inking him to a five-year contract extension worth $15 million back in April and tying him to the franchise for the foreseeable future. Given the value — and length — of the deal, it’s clear the Flyers’ new(er) brass still viewed highly of the now 27-year-old and believe him to be one of those non-star depth players good teams need to have around to contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Scott Laughton (5x3m extension with Philadelphia) is a second-liner with a great shot. pic.twitter.com/u8wlDIrn1H— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 12, 2021
Given some of the options the Flyers have trotted out that have been paid more and provided less, the club could do much worse than Laughton, who provides value to the bottom six while adding positional versatility to move up and down the lineup in a pinch. Not only do the Flyers know this, but so did other teams hot after Laughton leading up to the trade deadline before the team ultimately decided he was someone they wanted as part of the core group moving forward.
An effective player once again in 2020-21, Laughton was certainly deserving of the contract that he got while having upside to give the Flyers even more production to come.
By The Numbers
While Laughton wasn’t able to follow up his career-high of 13 goals in 2019-20, he turned in a productive season with nine goals and 11 helpers in 53 games. A dip in shooting percentage (17% to 10%) is a likely culprit for the dip in goals, but Laughton was very strong at 5-on-5 by the metrics and a modest surprise given the revolving door of line mates he took on during the season. Whether it was James van Riemsdyk for stretches, or youngsters like Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Joel Farabee, Wade Allison or even jumping up to play wing for Kevin Hayes: Laughton was providing above-average returns at even strength all season.
|Corsi (EV)||Fenwick (EV)||PDO (EV)||Zone Starts (EV)|
|Season||Age||Team||Lg||GP||TOI||CF||CA||CF%||CF% rel||FF||FA||FF%||FF% rel||oiGF||oiSH%||oiGA||oiSV%||PDO||oZS%||dZS%|
After enjoying a career-high in goals and goals per game (.27 compared to .14 career) in 2019-20, Laughton ramped up the shot totals this past season to mirror the success. But while the attempts were there — he posted his highest Fenwick percentage (shots + misses) in three years — the results didn’t follow as closely as they did the season prior.
Another result the Flyers would love to see turn around is their woeful penalty kill units, which Laughton was a key cog in during 2020-21 yet again. He led all Flyers forwards in ice time shorthanded, surrendering 19 goals while on ice in 96 minutes of work per NaturalStatTrick. Hayes, who served 25 fewer minutes, also allowed 19 goals, but certainly plays a different penalty killing style that lends to more chances as a result of risk-reward.
With Sean Couturier shouldering more of an offensive load in the last few seasons, the Flyers coaching staff has leaned harder on Laughton to take the point on penalty killing duties as their top forward and the results haven’t been good.
If there’s an area the Flyers would love to see Laughton improve upon armed with his new deal, they wouldn’t balk at him turning in better penalty killing numbers individually and as part of a team-wide improvement.
Did they live up to our expectations?
Laughton set the bar high after posting career-best scoring rates in 2019-20, and even though his scoring touch wasn’t as prominent as it was a season prior, we’re still giving the former Oshawa General a passing mark in that department.
Well expect for the month of April, of course, where Laughton mustered just a lone goal in 15 games. Even for a bottom six player, that’s just not a lot going on and a real reason why the Flyers floundered so hard in the month that derailed their playoff hopes essentially.
What do we/can we expect next season?
We should expect Laughton to again nail down the third line center spot with the Flyers right up against the salary cap and no more proven 3C option easily attainable through any means. That’s not the worst thing given that the Flyers certainly have confidence in Laughton to be passable at the role given they did hand him $3 million a year. While he doesn’t have the proven offensive game you’d love to have at your disposal in that spot, he’s a sound defensive player who can drive play despite starting in his own zone a ton.
You can live with that, and Laughton did show a bit of upside in the scoring touch department in 2019-20 so there’s potential that he can be on the hook for 15 or so goals given a full slate of games and a shooting percentage around 10%.
If he can give the Flyers 13-15 goals and dish out 15 or more assists while providing hard minutes the club would be very happy.
How would you grade their 2020-21 season?
Overall we’d give Laughton a solid B for his work. There are plus marks for his work driving play with younger guys and the less-than defensively responsible, he didn’t fill the box score as much as he did in similar usage this past year and again wasn’t part of the solution to a bad penalty kill.
All stats via Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, Evolving-Hockey unless otherwise noted.