Going into training camp, speculation about the Flyers’ second-line left wing position for the Stanley Cup playoffs seemed to center on either James van Riemsdyk or Joel Farabee.
Suddenly, there’s a new kid in town.
Well, maybe not all that “new’’ but certainly a bit of a surprise.
Then again, maybe not. Judging by the play of Scott Laughton, particularly on the overtime breakaway winning goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime exhibition triumph over Pittsburgh, anything is possible.
To be fair, Laughton did spend time with center Kevin Hayes and right wing Travis Konecny this past season.
But still, it’s quite a promotion for Laughton, who has spent most of his career in a checking role on the two lower lines.
Things have changed this year, a development reflected in his double trophy wins – the Yanick Dupre for class, dignity and sportsmanship plus the Pelle Lindbergh for most improved player.
On top of that, he registered a career-high 13 goals in only 49 games.
So when the Flyers start playing games for real, albeit round robin matches, on Sunday vs. Boston, there’s a good chance Laughton will be lining up with Hayes and Konecny.
During training camp, Laughton had been playing at center, which some believe is his more natural position. But the Flyers have depth there at the moment with Sean Couturier, Hayes, Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, so why not leave him on the wing where he seems to be doing some of his best work?
“That’s a good question,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said during a Zoom teleconference call from Toronto on Wednesday. “We’re trying to sort that out. I think the (round robin) games are really going to dictate what our lineup is going to be like.
“That (Tuesday) was our first game in five months. You have to give them time to work themselves back into game shape. But I believe decisions like Scott, decisions who will play in the bottom six, the top six – that’s going to be sorted out in the three games that we have.’’
Vigneault sounds like he’s keeping an open mind to the whole situation.
“I really didn’t expect anybody in Philly (actually Voorhees, the training camp site) to stand out,’’ he said. “Not that I didn’t put a lot of stock into it, I did (including) the attention to detail, the work ethic. But until you play the opposition, guys react differently.’’
Actually, most players don’t care where they play as long as they can get as many minutes of action as possible. Laughton logs a lot of ice time on the penalty kill, so there’s that to consider as well.
Line cohesion might have something to do with the final decision as well.
“I think we (Hayes, Konecny) have pretty good chemistry off the ice,’’ Laughton said. “We had a couple good practices before we came here. We just tried to follow it along. TK and Hayes are really good with the puck, I just try to get the puck to them and find spaces. We get on the forecheck and we’re good at hemming teams in their own zone. I think that’s huge for us.’’
>Hart to start vs. Boston
Vigneault said Carter Hart will start in goal vs. the Bruins on Sunday but he added that Brian Elliott will get at least one start in the round robin, meaning either Washington or Tampa Bay.
>Quiet building, better communication
With the Scotiabank Arena closed to fans, coaches and players were better able to have vocal communication during the first game the other day.
“It’s quieter, especially in warm-ups it’s a little different,’’ Laughton said. “It’s just getting used to having no fans. I think it was a different experience.’’
>Provorov left off top 20 defensemen list
After the kind of season Provorov enjoyed (including leading all NHL defensemen with seven power-play goals), one would expect to see him somewhere on NHL.com’s top 20 defensemen list.
Does it bother the Russian backliner at all? If it does, he’s not showing it.
“I’ve seen the list,’’ he said. “But to be honest, it’s their opinion. It is what it is. It doesn’t really bother me. I don’t play the game of hockey for making some sort of list. I play it because I love it and I want to win.
“If someone doesn’t put me on the list, it doesn’t bother me at all.’’