Birthdate: May 30, 1994 (age 19)
Acquired via: 2013 NHL Draft - Round 1, Pick 20
Current Team/League: Oshawa Generals, OHL
Contract: $894,167 per year through 2017 (two-way, entry-level, slide-rule pending)
With a lot of the guys we've profiled in this series, we've had to introduce them to you a bit, tell you who they are, what they've been up to lately, etc. By comparison, Scott Laughton is a guy you're probably familiar with, given that he's the team's near-consensus top prospect and has been on the Flyers' opening-night rosters each of the last two seasons before being sent back to Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League.
So instead, as a fun little flashback, we'll re-introduce you to Scott Laughton by reminding all of you how he was introduced to us. From the BSH Discussion Thread from June 22, 2012, when Scott Laughton was drafted:
There were literally dozens of others just like that. Granted, a good part of the outrage here was addressed towards the fact that the Flyers passed on defenseman Olli Maatta, who's having a great rookie season for the rival Penguins and just finished up a good Olympics for Team Finland. And I get that, and unless Laughton turns into a legit top-line forward, people will probably still talk about it.
That all said ... I feel like we should've learned this by now, but really, guys, don't question the Flyers when it comes to picking forwards in the mid-late part of the first round. Just don't do it. You'll be better off.
Anywho. We've talked about what Laughton's accomplished since being drafted a fair amount on this site. Even just this season, he's given us a fair amount to talk about. He was on the Flyers' opening-night roster but was scratched, then was immediately sent back to his junior team, and he's been destroying the OHL basically ever since.
He has scored 76 points (34 goals, 42 assists) in 47 games with Oshawa, while typically going up against the opposition's best players. He was named captain of Canada's World Junior Championships team last December/January, a tremendous honor. And every once in a while he does stuff like this.
Here is a very brief sampling of things said about Laughton at points this season.
PHI's Laughton has been impressive in the OHL. One NHL scout said, "He's a well-rounded player. He has no real weakness."— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) November 2, 2013
@JeffMarek best single OHL forward in all three zones this season (and I don't think it's that close).— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) December 8, 2013
And like that Laughton scores to make it 3-0 Gennies. And then led a 2 on 1 shorthanded rush. Is hockey supposed to be this easy?— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) December 9, 2013
Those are just a few. Check around Twitter any night he's playing a game for Oshawa and you'll probably find some people saying the same kind of things. But you get the point: Scott Laughton is a very good hockey player in just about every way imaginable, and anyone who has watched him play at all this year could tell you that. He's skilled, he's smart, he's quick, he's good defensively, he's physical, he's a bit of everything.
Which all sort of leads to the point here: Laughton -- as we've discussed here before -- is almost certainly punching way below his weight class in the OHL this year. Even at 19 (definitely older than the average OHLer, but not old enough to the point where this kind of dominance should be expected), he's just ripping this league apart, and has been ever since the Flyers sent him back there. It seems kind of effortless.
And that may be the big issue here: maybe it is effortless. Despite being good enough to tear the OHL to shreds this season, he didn't show enough in the Flyers' training camp and preseason to even have them give him a nine-game tryout this year. Did he just have some sort of eureka moment on October 3, when he was sent back to Oshawa? Has he genuinely improved this year while beating up on obviously inferior players? Is he just good enough to beat up on teenagers, but not good enough yet to handle pro competition? And whatever the answer is, is it enough that he can be expected to make the serious run for a roster spot next year that he couldn't this year?
His entry-level contract begins next season, and at absolute worst he'll be in the AHL with the Phantoms. You'd like to think that his dominance this season could be a good sign of things to come there, but after spending a year playing guys well below his talent level, it could end up being a bit of an adjustment facing guys who are fringe NHLers every night.
And that's to say nothing of the issues that will arise when his play finally does force the Flyers to keep him at the NHL level full-time, whether it's the beginning of next year or at some point during the season or even later than that. You've probably heard that the Flyers have a lot of centers already, to the point where it's quite possibly becoming a bit of a problem. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn all figure to be fixtures on this team for a while up the middle, and that's before you get to Vincent Lecavalier, who's already been pushed over to the wing and hasn't really been enjoying it that much.
The Flyers should (and presumably will) prioritize Laughton's role on the team ahead of Lecavalier's, given that the former is a much more important piece of the long-term puzzle here. But then what? Unless they're comfortable rolling someone like Laughton as a fourth-line center, eventually someone has to get pushed to the wing full-time. I had thought that was what would eventually happen with Laughton this year, but apparently that's something the Flyers were adamant about not doing just yet. Is it going to happen eventually? Who knows. But either way, the Flyers have some decisions ahead of them to make regarding Laughton and where he should be -- geographically as well as on the lineup card.
Now, all of that acknowledged, I feel bad taking the profile of the team's top prospect, who's been one of the best players in all of Canadian junior hockey this year, and talking about what problems are going to arise with him next year. So let's just close out by reminding everyone that this is a good problem to have. Scott Laughton has taken a first-round pick that was seen as questionable by a lot of people (Flyers fans included/especially) and made it look like a darn good one. Now it's his task to show the Flyers that they need to make room for him on the roster. He'll kick that door down eventually -- it's just a matter of when. And when it happens, he's gonna be a fun one to watch.
How we voted for Scott Laughton:
Who we voted for at No. 4:
|Scott Laughton||Scott Laughton||Scott Laughton||Scott Laughton||Sean Couturier||Shayne Gostisbehere||Scott Laughton||Scott Laughton|