Scott Laughton was developing into the type of player the Flyers envisioned when they selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft. He was someone who was effective at both ends of the ice, someone who played with an edge, someone who scored important goals.
And then Laughton’s career-best season came to a halt March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak, just like it did for his teammates and the rest of the NHL.
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So Laughton, a 25-year-old center/winger, clings to the hope that the suspended season will resume and that the Flyers, who had won nine of their last 10 games when the league stopped playing, will resume at some juncture.
“I think you have to be optimistic at this point and hope for the best,” said Laughton in a conference call from his Philadelphia apartment Tuesday afternoon. “... Obviously it’s a little bit out of our hands now, but you have to stay optimistic and continue to train for when the season comes [back].”
Laughton said players would need around a two-week training camp; he has been “doing body weight stuff” and exercises sent by the trainers. He is also doing yoga with his girlfriend. “Just trying to get a sweat on and stay active as best I can,” he said, “but there’s not the most training equipment in my apartment, so I’m just trying to do everything I can without weights.”
The NHL has floated the idea of having games resume at some neutral sites, which would limit teams’ travel and exposure.
“Any chance for us to come back and play some meaningful hockey, I think that’s what you play all year for,” Laughton said. “I think that’s what a lot of guys are thinking, especially here in Philly. We want to play hockey and we want to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, so any chance we could do that, logistic-wise, where we can play [might help]. I think first and foremost is the safety of everyone and get past all this and come out stronger.”
The Flyers (41-21-7) were on a 17-5-1 run and had climbed into second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind first-place Washington, when the season was paused.
“There was a really good feeling in the locker room, and you obviously don’t know what would have happened in the last 13 [regular-season] games," Laughton said. "The vibe was good. We were playing some of our best hockey of the year, if not the best. Hopefully we can return to that, but you can’t really kind of carry the momentum over with this much of a break. Just a reset and hopefully we can come back.”
Despite having this season interrupted twice by injuries, Laughton had collected a career-high 13 goals and 27 points while recording a plus-13 rating in 49 games. He said he built confidence late last season by contributing on a line with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds. “That kind of translated over into this year, where I was given a role where I was really comfortable,” he said.
He credited newcomers Kevin Hayes, who was his linemate when the season was suspended, Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun for a lot of the team’s success this season. Laughton said Hayes brought a “different element on and off the ice,” that Braun provided a “presence” to the locker room, and that Niskanen’s work in the gym before practices and the blocked shots and physicality he showed in games were eye opening.
“He’s been there before. He’s won. He knows what it takes to win,” Laughton said of Niskanen, a Stanley Cup champion with Washington in 2018. “So when you see a guy like that doing everything he does – not only on the ice but off it – you want to follow it. You want to listen to him when he speaks.”