Center Scott Laughton, the Flyers' No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, dominated the Ontario Hockey League last season. He even had a brief-but-successful stint with the AHL Phantoms the previous year.
But at 20, is he ready to make the quantum leap to the NHL?
That's one of the most intriguing questions that will be answered at the Flyers' training camps. When rookies report to camp Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, Laughton will be regarded as the player with the best chance of sticking with the big-league team.
"There's always guys that have a chance, but I don't like to go in with preconceived notions and say Player X has a good chance, or Player Y has a good chance," general manager Ron Hextall said. "Or, for that matter, that Player Z doesn't have a chance. I'd much rather just go in with an open mind, saying here's our big team, and young guys are going to have to beat guys out. And we all know injuries happen as well, so you want to make a good impression as a player, and if you don't make the team, maybe you're the first call-up."
Veteran camp starts Sept. 19, and Laughton is assured of being there, but far from guaranteed that he will be with the team when it opens its season Oct. 8 in Boston.
Laughton had 40 goals and 87 points in 54 games with the OHL Oshawa Generals last season.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Laughton trained hard in the summer, spent time with family and friends, and attended some country concerts (Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan). He feels his puck control has improved and that he can play in the NHL. Now.
"I think I'm ready, but a lot of kids say that when they come in, and sometimes it doesn't work out," he said after skating with several prospects and veterans in Voorhees on Wednesday. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm ready for any situation they put me in."
The Flyers might start the season with a veteran like Darroll Powe as their fourth-line center and give Laughton a full season to develop with the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
"Whatever they think is best for me," he said, "I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."
As an 18-year-old, Laughton played five games with the Flyers in 2012. He broke camp with the big-league team last season but didn't get into any games, and he was quickly sent back to the OHL.
Going through two camps with the Flyers and serving as captain of Canada's World Junior team last year has bolstered Laughton's confidence.
"I had a good summer of training, and feel good on the ice. Feel more powerful and explosive," Laughton said. "I know Coach [Craig] Berube wants to play a quick game, and that's what I'm going to try to do in these upcoming games, especially in the rookie game" Tuesday against the Washington Capitals.
The Flyers will have 27 players at rookie camp: 14 forwards, 10 defensemen, and three goalies.
"It's always fun to see your young guys and give an evaluation on them," Hextall said. In July's developmental camp, "we try not to evaluate. Let them learn and ask questions and find ways to get better. Learn how to be a pro. And now it's kind of our first evaluation on a lot of our young guys."
Breakaways. Friday's rookie camp starts at around 11 a.m. and is free and open to the public. . . . Most of the Flyers' veterans are already skating regularly in Voorhees, including Vinny Lecavalier and Claude Giroux.