NEW YORK – He’s the first-round pick who’s never really made it past the third line.
That would be Scott Laughton, who was taken 20th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft but enters this coming season with just 19 goals in 190 games.
While Laughton has excelled at times on defense, his offense has left a lot to be desired.
So much so, that he spent nearly the entire 2016-17 season with the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms and people were beginning to wonder if he would ever make his mark again in the NHL.
But Laughton bounced back last season to post 10-10-20 numbers with the Flyers and he seems to be building on some offensive momentum.
Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Laughton assisted the Flyers’ first three goals, including two by Oskar Lindblom in a 6-4 preseason win over the New York Rangers.
There has been thought of moving Laughton over to wing from his usual center spot but on Wednesday he was in the pivot again.
Maybe Laughton just hasn’t set the bar high enough these past few years.
Whatever the case, the trip down to the Phantoms might have done some good. Working with head coach Scott Gordon, Laughton produced 19 goals and 39 points in 60 games with a plus-17.
Laughton disclosed after the game that he spent some time with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ coaching staff over the summer to sharpen his offensive skills.
“I tried to work on little things you normally wouldn’t work on,’’ he said. “A lot of stuff with your head up and things like that.’’
Maybe this will be his year.
“I think playing in the league for a couple years, you get more confident with the puck,’’ said Laughton, perhaps mindful that it also took five years for Sean Couturier to finally hit his offensive stride when he doubled his career-high of 15 goals to 31. “Just continue to build in the preseason and try to get better and better. Try to come into the regular season in full stride.
General manager Ron Hextall has been impressed so far with Laughton’s work.
“He’s been really good,’’ Hextall said. “Scotty’s competitiveness, his speed, his shot, his tenacity. He looks very hungry right now.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol also likes what he sees.
“I see every part of his game being confident,’’ Hakstol said. “I think he’s skating and moving really well. You see the pace of his game is really good. Down low, he’s been hard and heavy on pucks, protected pucks very well. That’s an area he’s worked on and you can see it pay off. It’s something he’s worked on in the preseason here.’’
And then there’s Lindblom, who is making a strong case to stay with the Flyers. Getting a puck past future Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist certainly won’t hurt his cause.
Lindblom scored at 2:10 of the first and again at 18:30. Corban Knight, Dale Weise, German Rubtsov and Mikhail Vorobyev also scored for the Flyers, who ran their preseason record to 3-1.
Elliott back in action
Flyers’ No. 1 goaltender Brian Elliott saw his first action of the preseason and allowed two goals on 13 shots in just one period of work. Carter Hart took over in the second period.
Elliott is being brought along slowly after undergoing his second abdominal surgery of the year over the summer.
“I felt pretty good,’’ he said. “It’s a pretty delicate balance to push it and go easy on it somedays. This was a good first test to get in 20 minutes of game action. Wasn’t thinking about anything except stopping the puck.’’
There is a fine line there.
“It’s increasing your reps in practice, if it’s sore the next day you just have to pull back a bit,’’ he said. “We’ve been increasing things and it’s felt good.’’
Elliott still wouldn’t commit to being fully ready for the regular season opener in Las Vegas on Oct. 4.
No update on Alex Lyon
There was no injury update provided by the Flyers on goaltender Alex Lyon, who injured himself in warmups before Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Flyers will be splitting up their squad on Thursday so Lyon is probably going to end up with the Phantoms.