Philadelphia Flyers Season Review: F Scott Laughton

Young Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton is still groping for a regular NHL spot.

Ever since forward Scott Laughton was taken in the first round of the 2012 NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, it seems like he’s been on the cusp of the NHL roster. If playing 5 games with the Flyers in the fall of 2012 seemingly placed Laughton on the fast track to being a Flyers regular, that has not occurred.

Laughton played those 5 games in 2012, but he did not appear at all in the following season, and played only 31 games in the 2014-15 season. Now 21, last year was Laughton’s first full year in the NHL.

In his first 37 games, Laughton tallied 6 points. Last year, Laughton scored 7 goals and 14 assists in 71 games. That shows improvement, which should be expected of most players his age. Despite growing, all was not smooth sailing.

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As the chart above shows, Laughton was at the bottom of the team in possession and ice time.

Laughton certainly had some tough periods of play. In fact, back in January I wrote it made more sense to have Sam Gagner or Jordan Weal in the lineup in Laughton’s place. Of course things also change quickly for a young player. He had his best stretch of the season after moving over to the wing and playing with Matt Read and Nick Cousins down the stretch of the season.

This has led many to believe Laughton’s NHL future is at the wing. He was drafted as a center and has played there a few years, but his talent and game may be better suited to play a simpler game on the wing. He’s a speedy, enthusiastic player, but doesn’t seem ready to control the ice from the center.

Laughton was also surprising productive this season. Twenty-one points doesn’t sound like much, but all that came with hardly any ice time.

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I had to double check those numbers. I’ll just presume has it right! But who would’ve guessed Laughton’s 5v5 production rate was right in between Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux, or multiple spots ahead of Jakub Voracek? Fourth on the team in points is a pretty good sign, particularly when you consider how much time he spent playing with offensively inept linemates like RJ Umberger.

Scott Laughton’s future is very much uncertain right now. The two charts used in this post show both bad and good. A 21-year old forward being a negative possession player isn’t devastating by any means, but Laughton will have to keep working to earn coach Dave Hakstol’s trust to expand his role.

Right now Laughton is a bottom-6 forward who doesn’t play on special teams for the Philadelphia Flyers. That’s a tenuous position for any player. The Flyers, however, have plenty of reasons to believe in the player, and must keep giving him opportunities.

Laughton’s mixed performance last year was not a make-or-break season for the youngster. He’ll be playing with more at stake this upcoming season as his cheap rookie deal ends. He’ll have one full NHL season under his belt by that time, and what he does next season will dictate any new contract he signs as a restricted free agent. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Keep giving the kid opportunities. Let Laughton and his play dictate his future in the NHL and with the Philadelphia Flyers, and we’ll see which of the opposing indicators above reflect the player he becomes.