Monday, February 8, 2016

Is Laughton still a lock to make Flyers?

Rookie Scott Laughton had his minutes and role reduced in Tuesday night's exhibition loss to the Devils.

Is Laughton still a lock to make Flyers?

Flyers forward Scott Laughton. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Flyers forward Scott Laughton. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Is rookie Scott Laughton still a lock to make the Flyers’ opening night roster?

Laughton, 19, may not seem like as much of a sure thing as he did one week ago - as it appears the Flyers readily consider keeping 8 defensemen and 13 forwards instead of 7 and 14. 

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was asked after Tuesday night’s exhibition loss to the Devils if Laughton was making the decision tough. His answer - coupled with Laughton's minutes in exhibition action - was a bit telling

“At the end of the day, we’ll do what’s best for the organization,” Holmgren said. “With Scott, I was happy with his game tonight.”

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Holmgren and Peter Laviolette have both mentioned in the past few days that Laughton had a leg up in last year’s abbreviated training camp because he had been playing daily since September. From the sounds of it, that edge has evaporated.

“If you remember coming out of the lockout, we were starting the season and he had been playing for most of that time with his junior team. He was probably ahead of all the guys,” Holmgren said. “Right now, he’s basically on the same platform as everybody.

“That’s not the say he’s looked out of place - he’s a good, young player. Whether he’s ready or not, we’ve got a couple more days to think about it.”

Laughton played on the fourth line Tuesday with Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill in a complete checking-line role. He played just 12 minutes, the third least of any forward who played the entire game. Laughton did see 2 minutes and 30 seconds of penalty kill time, but he didn’t register a shot on goal and went 3-for-6 on faceoffs.

By comparison, Laughton played 18:45 a week earlier in Toronto.

Winger Michael Raffl, who is competing with Laughton for one of those spots, played 13:27. He also did not have a shot on net and seemed to be easily knocked off of the puck. Chris VandeVelde, another competitor, was scratched.

Laughton has one benefit that others do not: he can play the first nine games of the season with the Flyers without burning a year on his entry-level contract, something the Flyers may well take advantage of. Plus, after setting the precedent last January, the Flyers are in a little bit of a tough spot if they decide to send Laughton back to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals before the season starts: it doesn't send the best message to the franchise's top prospect.

It’s one thing to keep an eye on as the Flyers pare down their roster in between now and next Wednesday.

Holmgren reiterated that he likes the depth of his defense, and given the fact that they are all healthy, it is making the roster decision a bit tougher.

“There’s a couple scenarios,” Holmgren said. “We could carry 13 forwards and 8 defensemen, or 14 forwards and 7 defensemen. All of those things will be decided in the coming days.”

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