New Flyers centers of attention on day one

Scott Laughton

PHILADELPHIA – It didn’t take long for Flyers coach Alain Vigneault to get his two new players placed in prominent roles.

At Tuesday morning’s skate at the Wells Fargo Center, Vigneault announced that Derek Grant, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline on Monday, would start at third-line center in the game against San Jose.

To facilitate that move, Scott Laughton was moved from third-line pivot up into the vacancy left on second-line left wing due to the assignment of rookie Joel Farabee to the Phantoms.

Meanwhile, center Nate Thompson, obtained from Montreal on Monday, was slated to take over fourth-line center left open by rookie Connor Bunnaman’s assignment to Lehigh Valley.

Vigneault also said he planned to use rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel on the power-play spot formerly held by Farabee.

The coach said his new players were shown a team video to get them up to speed on his system and believes both veterans will be able to fit in right away.

“They came in this morning; we have a system video that we show all new players,’’ Vigneault said. “It’s about our priorities and how we do certain things. In the video session, they were very comfortable. I expect them to be excited, motivated and get their first win with us.’’

The players in the locker room seemed quite receptive to their new brethren. Grant was assigned uniform number 38 and Thompson drew number 44. Both wore those numbers with their former teams.

“I think our group is excited about the additions,’’ Vigneault said. “Both are penalty killers, they give us versatility, they’re experienced players.

“We’ll let them get used to their new environment. We expect them to come in and contribute the right way.’’

Grant was placed between James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick.

The 30-year-old Grant has previously played for six NHL teams so he knows the drill.

“It’s always fun (meeting new teammates),’’ he said. “Everyone’s been great. It’s always easier when you can get into a game right away, you get to know guys a little quicker that way.

“You develop it (chemistry) pretty quick in a game. We all play the game the same way for the most part. It’s a lot of communication and figuring where each of us is going to be.’’

Grant is enjoying his best season in the NHL, with 14 goals to date.

Thompson has played for seven NHL teams, so he should be able to figure out the system in a hurry. And it shouldn’t take him long to fit into this group either.

“(Sean) Couturier, Hayes, (Claude) Giroux all reached out to me last night,’’ Thompson said. “That was really nice, when guys reach out to make you feel welcome, that’s always nice to hear.

“I’ve gone through this situation a few times. On every team in the league there are always good guys. Especially in this room, I’ve heard nothing but great things. I’m just excited to be a part of it.’’

Laughton was scheduled to play with center Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny. The Laughton-Hayes combination has played in 22 previous games.

“Scott is a real good versatile player for us,’’ Vigneault said. “He can play any position – left, right or the middle.’’

Laughton’s 12 goals this season already have matched a career high. He’s shown he can be effective around the net, hence the promotion.

“It’s been good this year,’’ he said. “A couple injuries set me back (groin, broken finger). It’s getting put into certain situations and trying to make the most of them.’’

He already has a good backlog on left wing.

“It (left wing) is definitely different than playing center the last few games,’’ Laughton said. “Just try to play simple tonight and get back to when I was playing wing and that comfort level.’’

Both general manager Chuck Fletcher and Vigneault said that the current roster “earned’’ the right to have some veteran players added to the roster.

“Anytime you can add two guys that have had this experience, have been there before and can play in key situations down the stretch. . .it kind of puts us over the hump,’’ Laughton said.

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About Wayne Fish 2473 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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