Laughton’s Journey Earns Him Long Overdue Respect

Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Flyers’ Scott Laughton has finally found his place in the NHL, and we may have never known it but for Sean Couturier’s injury. The Flyers usage of Laughton and his play has created a case that is hard to dispute and should make every fan a Laughton fan, no matter where they were during the bumpy years.

Laughton’s journey to NHL respect has not been easy. Once a highly regarded draft pick, Laughton struggled to meet the expectations that came with it. This is not uncommon for high draft picks, but with Laughton, it was a bit more complicated.

No one knew what exactly Laughton, was or could become. Laughton, as a prospect, was really good at a lot of different things, but lacked an elite skill that would define his career. This left the Flyers, and worse yet Laughton, directionless and without a long-term plan or defining expectations.

Laughton’s career stalled to the point where he was sent to the AHL for most of 2016-2017, a year after playing over 70 NHL games the previous season. This must have been a tough time, where there were certainly difficult conversations that took place. This point of crisis and doubt was also the turning point in Laughton’s career, and he is better for it.

Once Laughton rejoined the Flyers in 2018, he has never looked back. He has gone from a solid fourth line center, to someone who is a respectable 2C in the NHL. There has been disagreement about Laughton’s worth, but his number and usage should change minds.

Laughton spent the first six games of the season playing almost exclusively against the opponents’ top two lines. He was the key member of the committee to make up for the injured Couturier. This means he saw Crosby/Malkin in Pittsburgh, Eichel/Eakin in Buffalo and Bergeron/Krejci in Boston. He only allowed 2 5 V 5 goals against.

He also was on the ice for two goals for, keeping the goal differential even against the most formidable competition. Keep in mind, he did this playing almost exclusively with Raffl and Aube-Kubel.

Don’t misunderstand, NAK and Raffl are fine players, but no one would confuse them with Marchand and Bergeron. It is pretty obvious that Laughton was the defensive presence in this mixture. Laughton is not quite Couturier, rather he reminds me more of Marchand. With Selke votes going to defensive luminaries like Brayden Point, Artemi Panarin and Luke Glendening, surely we could squeeze out a couple of votes for Laughton’s work.

Since the Flyers’ sixth game, injuries have necessitated more line shuffling. Laughton has been between Farabee and JVR. Farabee has similarities to Giroux, but not so much in the defensive zone. JVR has played his best defense in years and it rates solidly average.  Yet again, Laughton is playing the role of responsible defender. But this line is not constructed to be a shutdown line, it is built to score and it has. The players on the line have collected 22 total points in the last five games with Laughton collecting a hat trick against Washington.

Is it fair to ask what Laughton has become?  Some think he is a defense first center, a player that can match up against the league’s brightest stars and neutralize them.  Others think he is about to hit a Couturier like leap on offense, and has just lacked offensive talent around him.

Laughton plays so many roles for the Flyers, from sand papery pest to defensive stalwart, to play making center. It is hard to define exactly what he is.  One thing is for sure, Laughton has fulfilled the vaticination from when he was drafted. He is a really good all-around hockey player, and it is about we recognize it.