Flyers rookie Scott Laughton is a different player than the skinny 18-year-old center who made a brief NHL stop two years ago.
He's bigger, more confident, more comfortable with his surroundings. And based on the way coach Craig Berube talks about him, he may be here to stay.
"I like the way he's competed," Berube said the other day. "He has a heavy stick and he's done some good things."
When the Flyers finish an 11-day, five-game road trip in Columbus on Tuesday night, the 6-foot-1, 177-pound Laughton will play in his 11th game since being recalled from Lehigh Valley on Nov. 18.
"I'm feeling better every game," said Laughton, the Flyers' first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2012 draft. "I'm just trying to do the little things. It's tough when you don't score, but it's going to come with me. I'm getting chances and feeling more confident every game."
After collecting 11 points in 13 games with the Phantoms this season and being promoted by the Flyers, Laughton has no goals and just two assists in 10 games and has a minus-2 rating. But he has played well on the penalty kill, has won 51.6 percent of his faceoffs, and has given the Flyers much better defense - and more speed - than veteran Vinny Lecavalier, a healthy scratch for the last three games.
The Oakville, Ontario, native said the fact he has known most of his teammates for two years has helped ease the transition. "Two years ago, I didn't know many guys," he said.
He has also gained about 13 pounds since his first stint with the team, "and that helps you in the corners against big guys," he said.
Laughton, 20, seems much more mature than someone his age. He answers questions analytically and he seems unfazed going against players who, in some cases, were in the NHL when he was in kindergarten.
"He's calm with the puck and he makes plays," said Brayden Schenn, who along with Wayne Simmonds is a winger on the No. 2 line that is centered by Laughton.
Schenn said he "definitely can see a difference in him from two years ago. You can see the maturity and confidence. Two years helps a guy. He went back to junior and put up good numbers [40 goals and 87 points in 54 games with Oshawa last season] and got confidence, and you can see it here."
On Tuesday, the Flyers will try to build on Saturday's workmanlike 2-1 victory in Los Angeles.
The Flyers have 56 games remaining and are six points out of a playoff spot. As for Laughton? He has a long, productive career ahead of him.
Flyers winger R.J. Umberger will make an emotional return to Columbus, and the Blue Jackets will honor him with a "welcome back" tribute on the video board during the first period.
Umberger had his best seasons with the Blue Jackets before being dealt last summer to the Flyers - his first NHL team - with a fourth-round draft pick for Scott Hartnell. He is second on Columbus' all-time list in goals (120), third in points (250), third in game-winning goals (15), fourth in games (445), and fourth in assists (130).
Umberger has just four points and is minus-10 this season. Hartnell has 16 points and is minus-12.
Here are the players drafted in the first round in 2012 who have reached the NHL. Their career NHL stats are included.
Pk. Team Player Pos. GP G A Pts.
1 Edmonton Nail Yakupov R 138 32 31 63
2 Columbus Ryan Murray D 70 4 17 21
3 Montreal Alex Galchenyuk C 142 28 48 76
4 NY Islanders Griffin Reinhart D 5 0 0 0
5 Toronto Morgan Rielly D 98 5 31 36
6 Anaheim Hampus Lindholm D 107 9 33 42
7 Minnesota Mathew Dumba D 33 2 4 6
9 Winnipeg Jacob Trouba D 93 14 27 41
11 Washington Filip Forsberg C 44 12 19 31
12 Buffalo Mikhail Grigorenko C 43 3 5 8
14 Buffalo Zemgus Girgensons C 97 16 20 36
15 Ottawa Cody Ceci D 76 4 13 17
16 Washington Tom Wilson R 98 5 11 16
17 San Jose Tomas Hertl C 66 21 17 38
18 Chicago Teuvo Teravainen F 3 0 0 0
20 FLYERS Scott Laughton C 15 0 2 2
22 Pittsburgh Olli Maatta D 98 10 28 38
29 New Jersey Stefan Matteau F 17 1 2 3
30 Los Angeles Tanner Pearson L 52 13 7 20