This speaks volumes about the Flyers’ offensive depth this season: Their projected fourth line is composed of center Scott Laughton and wingers Michael Raffl and Nic Aube-Kubel, three of their best performers in last year’s playoffs.
Laughton, 26, who led the Flyers with five goals in the postseason, played primarily on the top-nine last season as a left winger. But with left winger Oskar Lindblom and center Nolan Patrick now healthy, Laughton has been dropped to center on the fourth line in training camp.
“That could be a very effective line for us,” coach Alain Vigneault said after Sunday’s morning skate in Voorhees. “Scotty is that type of player. Any player that can play more than one position, that’s great for a team, it’s great for him and it’s great for a coach.”
Laughton, who plays with an edge, had a career-high 13 goals and a plus-13 rating in just 49 games last season, one shortened to 69 games because of the pandemic. He missed 20 games because of finger and groin injuries but was still voted the Flyers’ most improved player by his teammates.
“I think as a player you always want to try to get to that next level,” he said when asked about sliding down to the fourth unit. “I believe last year was a good stepping stone for me to be more comfortable on the ice and making plays and playing up and down the lineup. I know AV likes to use his third and fourth lines, and line matching, and all that, and on draws. Hopefully, we can put trust in him and go out and do a good job.”
Laughton, the ultimate team player and one of the Flyers’ top penalty killers, said he was “not really concerned with where I am at in camp. I feel good on the ice and I’m excited to get this thing rolling.”
Raffl and Aube-Kubel are Laughton’s hard-working and effective wingers, players who also have the ability to play up in the lineup. In last year’s playoffs, Raffl finished tied for second on the team in goals (four in just nine games) and was second with a plus-5 rating, and the physical Aube-Kubel contributed two goals and was one of the Flyers’ best forecheckers.
“All of us can skate,” Raffl said of the trio. “I think we are aware of what kind of role we are going to get. The chemistry has been there. It is more or less hard work for us going into games, knowing what we do well and doing it on point.”
The Flyers’ offensive depth – promising center Morgan Frost will have a difficult time cracking the lineup – is a sign of progress, said Laughton, whose team opens the season Wednesday against visiting Pittsburgh.
“I think that is what you see out of winning teams,” Laughton said. “Every team that has won [the Stanley Cup] the last couple of years has a fourth line that is really effective and can still make plays and play out there. I think the game has changed a little bit in that way where you do not have as many fighters, I guess if you want to say. Just guys that can create energy and things like that. … The internal competition is really good for our group and every player wants to play more minutes and be the best they can be.
“Like I said, I’m excited to get going,” Laughton added, “but the internal competition has been good at camp and you want to continue that throughout the year and have younger guys push in and continue to build their role.”