Scott Laughton stood at the front of his line, poised to skate, before each end-to-end drill on Thursday. On the first day of Flyers developmental camp, Laughton glided through most of the exercises, the first skater to reach the other end of the ice.
Still just 20 years old with a thin chin-strap beard, the Flyers' 2012 first-round pick is a veteran of sorts at the prospect camp, and he carried himself like one. This year, the stakes are different for Laughton, and he knows it. He believes that this is his time to earn a roster spot on the Flyers.
The center received a taste of the NHL in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he was 18 years old. Although he was scoreless in a five-game stint, he showed his potential.
"I still think about it," Laughton said Thursday. "It was definitely a dream come true, and that's where I want to be next year. That's the ultimate goal and there's no really lying about it, that's where I want to be. I just loved it up there."
Laughton remembers the bad times with the good. Last season, he was a healthy scratch in the Flyers' season opener before the team decided to send him back to junior hockey, to play for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. Waving to the crowd on opening night when he knew he wouldn't be playing is a memory he won't soon forget, one that motivates him entering this season.
Looking back, Laughton thinks the extra seasoning was helpful. He was able to spend more time with the puck, scoring 40 goals with 47 assists in 54 games with Oshawa in addition to having the experience of competing for Canada in the World Junior Championships.
"I think I took my offensive game to another level this year," Laughton said.
The next step? Laughton could start this season with the Phantoms as general manager Ron Hextall places an emphasis on developing players in the minor leagues, but Laughton hopes to avoid that step. His sights are set on impressing during training camp and making the roster.
Most important, he wants his next appearance in the NHL to last much longer than five games, even if it means more development time.
"I want to play in the league 15 years from now, not play when I'm 20 and be out of the league soon," Laughton said.