Philadelphia Flyers Defy Expectations, Choose Center Scott Laughton in 1st Round
Photo Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
By Charlie O’Connor (@THG_Charlie)
In the days leading up to the NHL Draft, rumors abounded regarding the Philadelphia Flyers and their first round selection.
They would trade up to an earlier spot in the first round. They would trade their first round pick for Rick Nash. Or Bobby Ryan. Or even Keith Yandle. But if they kept their pick, surely, it would be used to select a high upside defenseman.
Rumors are funny things.
The Flyers did not make the blockbuster trade for a star forward, as some had speculated, and retained their 20th overall pick. And when it was their turn in the first round, Philadelphia did not take Olli Maatta, the highly touted London Knights defenseman known for his prowess in his own end. Nor did they choose the standout offensive defenseman, Matt Finn.
Instead, the Flyers used their first round pick to add to their seemingly-always impressive depth at center, choosing Scott Laughton, an 18-year old forward from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League.
Ranked 28th amongst North American prospects according to Central Scouting and the 24th best prospect in the draft by The Hockey Guys, Laughton scored 53 points in 64 regular seasons games with the Generals (21 goals, 32 assists). He also finished the season with 101 penalty minutes.
According to Todd Cordell, writer for The Hockey Guys, Laughton is a center known for his physicality, aggressiveness, and commitment to the defensive side of the game. A fully developed Laughton would profile as a second or third line center, capable of taking on tough competition and able to log heavy minutes on the penalty kill.
And for the second straight year, Philadelphia has acquired a prospect who compares himself to their former captain, Mike Richards.
“I’ve been looking up to Mike Richards for a while now,” Laughton said. “He’s a guy I love to watch play.”
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren agreed, according to Rob Parent of the Delco Times, stating that Laughton reminds him a bit of Richards. Another popular point of comparison is John Madden, the former Selke Trophy winner.
Laughton will be added to an organizational depth chart that is stocked with natural centers. In addition to Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Maxime Talbot, the Flyers also have Nick Cousins, a third round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft who scored 88 points in 65 games as a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL in 2011-12.
However, the team’s depth at center is not as intimidating as it initially appears.
Giroux and Couturier are locked in as starting centers for the foreseeable future. But Schenn received substantial ice time as a winger during his rookie season with the Flyers, and many league observers believe that his aggressive, physical style is better suited for the wing in the long term. Talbot proved during the playoffs, when he flanked Sean Couturier on the Flyers’ shutdown line, that he is fully capable of adjusting his position in response to roster demands.
And while Cousins has mostly played center during his career in juniors, his NHL role will likely be similar to that of Brad Marchand, who is often used as a comparison point for the feisty young forward. Marchand still receives minutes at center with the Boston Bruins, but has spent a great deal of time at wing on Patrice Bergeron’s line.
If Laughton remains at center and develops as the front office and scouting department clearly believes that he will, Philadelphia will find a spot for him on the NHL roster. Laughton’s estimated time of arrival in the NHL looks to be in about three seasons, and he could easily slot as the third line tough minutes center behind Giroux and Couturier, allowing Couturier to take on more of an offensive role.
And as the Los Angeles Kings proved during their playoff run with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Jarret Stoll, depth at center is still a winning formula in the National Hockey League.
One thing is to be certain. If Laughton’s scouting report proves accurate, a gritty two-way center not afraid to mix it up on the ice will prove to be very popular in the city of Brotherly Love.