VOORHEES, N.J. – For years the Flyers were on a quest to dress four quality centers at one time for their roster.
The search may be over.
With the expected return of Nolan Patrick (chronic migraine headache condition) along with returnees Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes, the outlook appears bright.
Oh, and let’s forget Scott Laughton, who finally came into his own last year with a career-high 13 goals in just 69 games.
That won him the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy for being the Flyers’ “Most Improved Player’’ (voted by the players).
In addition, Laughton also took home the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association Class Guy Award for
Going into the season opener on Wednesday, it appears Laughton will be centering a fourth line with Michael Raffl and Nicolas Aube-Kubel on his flanks.
While it took quite some time for the 2012 first-round draft pick to come into his own, Laughton is now paying off the Flyers for showing patience with him.
In fact, Laughton was leading the Flyers in scoring (five goals, nine points) when the team was eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conferene semifinals last season.
Although a natural center, Laughton played wing for much of last season and had his best season. Now it looks like he’s heading back to center. Will that be tough?
“I don’t think it is too difficult,’’ he said during a media Zoom call on Sunday morning. “I am pretty familiar with playing with those guys from a couple of years ago and being around. I am comfortable in that role and playing that.
I am excited to just get back on the ice and feel the puck a little bit and be back with the guys and have a good scrimmage tonight and continue to build on our game as a line and hopefully go into the year flying.’’
He saw a lot of playing time among the top nine forwards last season. But he doesn’t mind going back to the fourth line if that will help the team.
“I think as a player you always want to try to get to that next level,’’ Laughton said. “I believe last year was a good stepping stone for me to be more comfortable on the ice and making plays and playing up and down the lineup.
“I know AV (coach Alain Vigneault) likes to use his third and fourth lines and line matching and all that and on draws. Hopefully we can put trust in him and go out and do a good job. I’m not really concerned at where I am at in camp. I feel good on the ice and I’m excited to get this thing rolling.’’
No doubt Laughton earned Vigneault’s trust last season, especially with his playoff performance. The 26-year-old Ontario native especially tore it up in the round-robin tournament in which the Flyers swept Washington, Tampa Bay and Boston.
The Laughton back to center move isn’t exactly etched in stone but Vigneault sees the benefits in that sort of alignment.
“There is no doubt that if Nolan is alright, which so far, we have talked about taking it a day at a time and that is what we are going to continue to do with him, but he has been very good,’’ Vigneault said. “Obviously, then you have Coots (Couturier) and Kevin Hayes, so Scotty Laughton, on the role that he is in, that could be a very effective line for us. Scotty is that type of player. Any player that can play more than one position, that’s great for a team, it’s great for him and it’s great for a coach. He can play more than one spot and that is very positive for him and us.’’