Flyers could keep Laughton; one cut remains

Will the Flyers use up-and-coming Scott Laughton or veteran Vinny Lecavalier as their third-line center when the season starts Oct. 8?

That is one of the questions that could be answered as soon as Thursday, provided the team decides to finalize its roster.

The Flyers waived wingers Chris Porter and Colin McDonald on Wednesday, and now have to cut just one more player to get their roster down to 23, the NHL maximum.

They could keep Laughton - but figure to do so only if he plays among the top nine - or send the 6-foot-1, 190-pound center back to the AHL's Phantoms. Either way, Lecavalier will be on the roster unless he is dealt.

Laughton, 21, brings youth, speed and better defense than Lecavalier, 35, who provides more offense (especially on the power play), experience and versatility. Lecavalier could also play right wing, while the Flyers are only looking at Laughton as a center.

Laughton "has shown in this camp that he's maturing as a pro," new coach Dave Hakstol said Wednesday before the Flyers' listless 4-2 loss to New Jersey at the half-empty Wells Fargo Center.

Barring a trade or an injury, the last roster spot probably will go to Laughton or defenseman Brandon Manning. If Manning stays, the Flyers figure to carry eight defensemen.

On Wednesday, Laughton centered Matt Read and R.J. Umberger. He played 12 minutes, 10 seconds, made some nice defensive plays, had two shots, three hits, and won just four of 12 faceoffs.

Laughton said he played "just OK" against the tight-checking Devils, and Hakstol agreed, saying he was one of many Flyers who lacked energy.

If Laughton makes the team, there is a chance he assumes the shutdown defensive role handled by Sean Couturier in recent years. Couturier will still be a defensive presence, but the Flyers are hoping he becomes more of an offensive threat.

"I think he's been committed to the defensive side of the game," Hakstol said of Laughton. "He's committed to that hard, two-way game. . . . I just think every player has to have a foundation to his game, and that foundation has to be your play without the puck. If you're not willing to play two ways, it's going to be tough to play here. If you look around the room, that's valued in a big way."

Porter, 31, who played for Hakstol at North Dakota and spent six years with St. Louis, had an impressive camp and was in the lineup Wednesday despite being waived earlier in the day. Porter scored a first-period goal, his third in three preseason games.

McDonald, who turned 31 Wednesday and is another NHL veteran, had no points in two preseason games after being signed as a free agent.

Both wingers will be sent to the Phantoms if they clear waivers at noon Thursday.

Breakaways

Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had been battling a nagging injury, stopped 15 of 18 shots before being replaced by Jason LaBarbera at the start of the third period. GM Ron Hextall said he aggravated the injury and will be reevaluated Thursday. . . . The Flyers held injured forwards Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl out of the lineup. Lecavalier and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Radko Gudas were among the scratches. . . . Brayden Schenn took Raffl's spot as the top-line left winger, and Sam Gagner replaced Couturier, centering the second line. . . . The Flyers (3-2-1) will finish their preseason schedule by playing the Devils (2-4) in Newark on Friday.

scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull