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Scott Laughton’s role with the Flyers continues to grow on the ice and in the locker room

The versatile forward hasn't missed a beat since moving into a top-six role and has also emerged as the face of the team's leadership group under new coach John Tortorella.

Versatile forward Scott Laughton has established himself as one of the Flyers' steadiest players over the past few seasons.
Versatile forward Scott Laughton has established himself as one of the Flyers' steadiest players over the past few seasons.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

When Justin Braun thinks of Scott Laughton, he thinks of a happy guy who brings smiles to a locker room. But he didn’t always think that.

From 2010-19, Braun played for the San Jose Sharks, and, for several years, he had the dubious pleasure of facing Laughton twice a season as an opponent.

“I remember him yelling at me from the bench, telling me I should retire, that I was the worst D-man out there,” Braun said. “And I was like, ‘Man, this guy’s so mean.’”

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Braun even joked that he would head to the faceoff circle as late as possible to avoid Laughton’s chirping.

As an opponent, Laughton is what center Kevin Hayes kindly dubbed “a rat.” Hayes, who played for the New York Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets before joining the Flyers, said it didn’t matter if the Flyers were winning or losing, Laughton “wouldn’t shut up.”

Ahead of the 2020 season, Braun and Hayes joined the Flyers. Hayes asked around about Laughton and heard he was “the man,” but he thought to himself, “There’s no way. There’s absolutely no way.”

Fast forward, and Hayes and Laughton are best friends — now that he’s no longer the recipient of Laughton’s on-ice barbs.

“I play a ton with him, and I sit next to him on the bench, and I just laugh the whole time,” Hayes said.

Lately, Laughton’s been getting attention for being a leader on and off the ice, Hayes said, but he’s quietly (or not so quietly) been leading since Hayes arrived. He’s a guy who truly cares — about people, about the game, and about this city.

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‘I didn’t really have a role’

Getting to the NHL wasn’t the hard part for Laughton, the Flyers’ first-round draft pick in 2012. The Oakville, Ontario, native debuted at 18 during the 2012-13 season but lasted just five games before being reassigned to the OHL.

“I think that’s probably the hardest thing is you can make the NHL, but it’s sticking around,” Laughton said.

For the next few seasons, he was up and down between the NHL and the AHL. The constant back-and-forth was tough mentally.

“I didn’t really have a role in the NHL, didn’t play on the special teams, didn’t really play five-on-five,” Laughton said. “So I was in a pretty limited role, and confidence was at an all-time low.”

But getting sent down multiple times helped him in the long run. With top-line AHL minutes and special teams experience, Laughton rebuilt his confidence. He also started to think about what he needed to do to stick in the NHL, eventually establishing himself as a versatile forward who could grind on the third and fourth lines and on the penalty kill.

In 2017-18, his fifth season of pro hockey, Laughton finally convinced the Flyers he was a full-time NHLer, playing 81 games and scoring 10 goals. Laughton has steadily improved from there. He’s hit double-digit goals in every year but one since, the exception coming during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season when he scored nine. This season, Laughton has three goals and four points through 10 games, ranking third among Flyers forwards in ice time at just under 20 minutes per game.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen him grow from a lower-, bottom-six kind of guy to a top-six guy and really thrive in those situations,” Braun said.

» READ MORE: You make that team ... You’re a pretty special player’: Flyers’ Scott Laughton was a lacrosse star first

No longer just a depth guy

Laughton wants to be known as a hard worker who plays a complete game, brings the same attitude every day, and helps the younger players. Braun called him “a bright spot” in a disastrous 2022 season.

In a historically bad year for the Flyers, it would have made sense for Laughton’s game to slip. Instead, before going out with a concussion in March, he was on track for a career-best season points-wise. (Ultimately, he finished two points shy of his career high of 32 points in 15 fewer games.)

Laughton, pushed up in the lineup by injuries to key players, had grown out of his bottom-six role. His ability to play on any line and at either wing or center made him a valuable piece, and he capitalized on the added opportunities that came his way.

“Last year, before I left, I thought he was playing the best hockey he’s played since I’ve been here, the way he was controlling the game, controlling the puck,” Braun said.

Laughton didn’t just become more noticeable on the ice. His voice also grew in the locker room.

“That’s what I tried to do all last year, especially in some tough times the last couple of years; I think you try and bring the same attitude, bring a couple of smiles to a couple faces,” Laughton said.

While the players always recognized him as a leader, Laughton was formally rewarded by interim coach Mike Yeo, who made him an alternate captain. Laughton was the Flyers’ 2022 nominee for the King Clancy Trophy, which goes to “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

» READ MORE: Who will be the next Flyers captain? Here are the top contenders.

However, with a new coach arriving, Laughton’s status was far from cemented, especially since John Tortorella said he wouldn’t name a captain right away. When the Flyers began the season, only one player was sporting a letter on his jersey: Laughton with an “A.”

Tortorella didn’t make much of it to the team, although he told the media he thought Laughton was the only person who deserved the honor. Center Morgan Frost said the consensus among the players was that Laughton had earned it.

A mentor to the kids

Laughton, 28, recently came to the realization that he’s getting old compared to some of his teammates. With James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier out with injuries, he’s suddenly the longest-tenured Flyer in the room.

But Laughton still remembers being a young player. He especially remembers the road trips where everything was foreign, so he tries to make sure the newcomers — old and young — are invited out to eat.

An “open door policy” is important to him, although literally having a open door got messy during the 2020 bubble. “Guys were coming in for dinner ... and leaving it there. And then I was sleeping in it,” Laughton said.

Laughton’s door may have closed and activities may have been limited by COVID-19, but his impact wasn’t. Winger Noah Cates, then in college, watched Laughton last season from afar and connected personally with his game since they both play left wing and center as well as on the penalty kill and power play.

After Cates joined the team at the end of last season, he cited Laughton as one of the main reasons he felt a part of the Flyers family.

» READ MORE: Cates brothers’ unbreakable bond has carried them from their Minnesota basement to the Flyers

“[He’s] kind of a guy I really want to be like in the next few years here, who I’m really going to watch and learn from,” Cates said. “When he was really good to me, really nice to me, helping me out, I definitely listened.”

The concept of the Flyers family is important to Laughton, who said it goes beyond the locker room ― he’s established good relationships throughout the organization from the coaches to the equipment staff to the media. It’s imperative to Laughton, who is signed through 2026, that he teaches the newcomers what being a Flyer is about.

“He just always welcomes everybody in, no matter the awkwardness,” winger Travis Konecny said. “He’s always light and keeping everyone feeling comfortable ... making guys feel like they’re part of the team right away.”

There’s also a practicality to Laughton helping the youngsters, who he recognizes are key to the Flyers’ future.

“I want to be a part of something here that we can put on the ice every night and be proud of,” Laughton said. “I want to bring the Stanley Cup and be a part of something.”