This afternoon the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they have recalled their top forward prospect Scott Laughton after his OHL season ended. In five games of NHL experience at the start of the 2013 season Laughton averaged 11:31 of ice time, earned zero points, and recorded 10 shots on goal. The Flyers have already made it clear that he will not play in Game 4 of their current playoff series.
But could he play in the following games? I believe he should.
First, it must be noted that if Laughton plays in more than nine games, the first year of his entry-level contract will be burned. If possible, that is a situation the Flyers would like to avoid.
There are three reasons why Laughton should get a shot to play:
He is a 4th line upgrade to Zac Rinaldo. I do not hate Zac Rinaldo and I believe that some day he can become a valuable fourth line player. However, he is not one today. His -1 penalty differential so far in the playoffs (he was -14 during the regular season) is only trending negatively, while he is not driving the play up the ice.
Rinaldo does not contribute offensively and he is sub-par defensively. When it comes to Laughton, do not let his latest OHL numbers fool you (40G, 47A in 54 regular season games, 4G, 7A in 11 playoff games). He does not project to be an offensive NHL force. He was playing against 16, 17, and 18 year old kids in juniors and would be playing against grown men in the NHL. However, Laughton has been voted as one of the best defensive forwards in the OHL the past two years (here and here) and has shown flashes of offensive brilliance.
To throw Laughton into a minute eating role would be reckless and would harm the Flyers. However, inserting him onto a line between Michael Raffl and Adam Hall would give him the opportunity to use his two-way skill set and improve the Flyers line-up.
He would gain valuable experience. Scott Laughton has already gained valuable hockey experience this season. At the beginning of the season Laughton was able to experience a full NHL training camp. He was on hand for the season opening game but he did not dress.
Later in the year, he not only made Canada’s World Junior Championship team, but he was named Team Captain. Throughout the season Laughton was one of the leading skaters on a competitive Oshawa Generals team that won the OHL Eastern Conference regular season title. The ability to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs would give this 19 year old another experience to add to his banner year.
Laughton is projected to be an NHL regular in the next year or two. Ultimately, playoff experience (in a limited role) would give him the opportunity to experience the intensity of playoff hockey without crippling his long term confidence.
He would be showcased. Everyone knows that the Flyers have too many centers. There is no way that they keep all of Giroux, B. Schenn, Couturier, Lecavalier, and Laughton for the long haul (not to mention Nick Cousins). As much as I do not like the thought of trading Laughton, letting other teams watch him in the playoffs could seriously raise his trade stock.
Obviously, this would never be the primary reason for bringing Laughton into the line-up, but it would not hurt. There have already been murmurings of Holmgren making a big splash this off-season to land major defensive help. If Laughton proves that he can be an NHL regular, his value in such a trade would be significantly higher than that of a ‘highly-touted prospect.’
Again, I am not in favor of trading Laughton. But this showcasing could work in the opposite direction. If Laughton were to come in and play well, a player like Brayden Schenn may be more expendable in the eyes of the organization. No team would bring a player onto their playoff roster purely for the purpose of “showcasing” him. But if it can help the team in both the short-term and long-term, do not think that it would not be a consideration.
Scott Laughton is the Flyers top forward prospect. He is an upgrade to Zac Rinaldo on the fourth line, he needs the valuable playoff experience he would gain from playing in a few games, and watching him play would give both Flyers brass and other organizations the chance to evaluate the young center. Ultimately, Laughton should get into a few games before the Flyers are eliminated from the playoffs. If done right, it can help the team.