SCOTT LAUGHTON still has not forgotten the feeling.

It was a bright, sunny Sunday last January in Tampa, Fla. The week was a blur. Laughton had five quick and impressive NHL games under his belt in a span of 7 days, on the heels of the NHL lockout.

Laughton, then 18, was busy preparing for that night's game against the Lightning - but he knew the Flyers had an important decision to make.

If Laughton played that night against Tampa Bay, the Flyers would have been on the hook for the first year of his 3-year, entry-level contract and only a shortened season to show for it.

One phone call that Sunday from GM Paul Holmgren sent Laughton from the lavish NHL lifestyle back to junior hockey in Ontario.

"You're sitting in your hotel room and you know that your sixth game is coming up and you don't know what to expect," Laughton said. "I was walking around. I remember the exact moment I got the call. It was a tough day."

Eight months later, Laughton will begin his quest to become a full-time Flyer today when he leads a team of rookies in an exhibition game against the Capitals in suburban Virginia. The scrimmage, which has been a launching pad for Flyers prospects including Claude Giroux (2007), Sergei Bobrovsky (2010) and Sean Couturier (2011), will be Laughton's final tuneup before training camp opens on Thursday.

"I think the ultimate goal is clear: to make this team," Laughton said.

This time around, Laughton says he is "more confident, more comfortable and better in the offensive zone." The Flyers' first-round pick in 2012 attributed some of that to living with Scott Hartnell during the first 2 weeks of last season.

Looking at the Flyers' roster, though, there is no real obvious opening - and that's without Simon Gagne in the mix. The Flyers are "kicking around" whether to invite Gagne to training camp as a tryout.

Laughton is a natural center. The Flyers are stacked with Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier, Couturier and Max Talbot. Laughton's best opportunity to make the team is as a third-line left wing.

"I've never played left wing, but I'm willing to do anything to be able to play on this team," Laughton said. "I don't need to look at the roster and see what's going on. My job is clear here. I want to get better everyday, show the coaches I'm aware of their systems and try and become a part of the team."

Laughton has a few unique advantages over some of the challengers, like frequent call-up Tye McGinn. Since this isn't a shortened season, the Flyers can audition Laughton for up to nine games this fall to see whether he is ready. He cannot be sent to AHL, per league rules, since he is not yet 20.

Because of that, Laughton is almost a lock to be on the Flyers' opening-night roster on Oct. 2 against Toronto.

It's also no secret that the key to success in a salary-cap world is filling out your roster with talented but cost-efficient pieces. Laughton fits that mold at a base salary of $925,000.

Last January, Laughton demonstrated he could play defense at the big-league level and hold his own. If he can chip in with a few points and remain consistent over the next month, he will be able to avoid that phone call and disappointed feeling.

"I've got a lot to prove," Laughton said. "Now, it's up to me to show what I can do."

Slap shots

Veteran defenseman Hal Gill, 38, will join the Flyers on a tryout when training camp opens Thursday at Wells Fargo Center. Gill won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 and played for Nashville last season. Most of the Flyers' recent training-camp invites, including Michael Nylander and Bill Guerin, did not earn contracts . . . New assistant general manager Ron Hextall said Friday the Flyers were looking at "three or four" veterans to invite to camp. Hextall said he did not know whether Simon Gagne, 33, would be one of those invites. Other free agents on the market include defenseman Ron Hainsey and left wing Brenden Morrow.