Flyers

Scott Laughton ready after scare: 'I want to be a top-6 forward'

usa-scott-laughton-flyers.jpg

Scott Laughton ready after scare: 'I want to be a top-6 forward'

Just as Scott Laughton got his chance, it was gone.

The 21-year-old experienced any hockey player’s dream of playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he was thrust into his first-ever postseason game April 16 once Sean Couturier went down for the series.

Four days later, the dream took a harrowing turn.

In Game 4 of the Flyers’ first-round playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals, Laughton had a nasty, sideways spill into the backboards off a hit from John Carlson.

Laughton was stretchered off the ice and hospitalized for precautionary reasons. He never returned to the series.

“I could move everything,” Laughton said, recalling the moment last Tuesday at Flyers Skate Zone.

“I was conscious the whole time. It was just a tough play, a really weird play. I know it was scary for a lot of people, including myself. Like I said, I really appreciate all the support from all the people who did reach out and everything like that. It really did mean the world to me. It was definitely a scary moment.”

Laughton now feels “great.”

The Flyers’ 2012 first-round draft pick will turn the page and set goals for the next chapter. Laughton is coming off his first full NHL season, appearing in 71 regular-season games and collecting 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists).

If the injury scare wasn’t motivation enough, Laughton can remember eight healthy scratches in the Flyers’ final 10 regular-season games for some extra kick.

Laughton played mainly on the Flyers’ third line.

Not for much longer?

“I want to be a top-six forward in the NHL,” Laughton said, referring to playing on a top-two unit. “And I am going to do everything I can this summer to try and do that.”

The Oakville, Ontario, native accomplished such at previous levels.

It gives him confidence he can do the same at the NHL ranks.

“I know a lot of people put a third-line ceiling on me and things like that,” Laughton said. “But I played top six in junior and did all that. So that's what I am going to be looking to try to do. I am going to try to score some more goals and things like that. But that's my goal.”

Like he said, Laughton showed that ability in 2013-14 with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, breaking out for 87 points (40 goals, 47 assists) in 54 games.

Laughton was then ready for the jump.

But carrying over the success is the true transition.

“A lot of it is opportunity, where you are put in the lineup and things like that,” he said. “If you are a young guy and are going to play a lot of minutes, that definitely helps young guys. Or you are going to play six minutes and if you go back to junior, you're going to play 20 minutes with your team in all situations. My fourth year in junior really helped me playing in all situations and things like that needed in the NHL.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will continue to build from within. He sees internal avenues, like developing the Flyers' youth, as the first way to improve this offseason.

Laughton fits that mold.

“I don’t see a big roster turnover — it’s not going to happen,” Hextall said last Wednesday. “We have pieces in place that we like. Would we like to get better in a couple of places? Yes, we would. And if we can, we’re going to do it. 

“Again, I don’t anticipate a massive change here.”

Laughton helps that case given he's an option to fill different holes by playing either wing or center.

“I'm comfortable with anywhere they put me,” Laughton said. “I've said it for the past couple of years. So I am going to work on my game and be ready wherever.”

If anything, the soon-to-be 22-year-old is grounded. With how his most recent season ended, Laughton knows nothing is a given.

“I am going to be ready to fight for a spot again,” he said.

“It hasn't come easy the last couple years and I don't imagine it being any easier next year for me to try to make this team.”

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL

Flyers-Islanders observations: Losing streak reaches 7 with another OTL

BOX SCORE

The losing streak rolls on.

The Flyers, after the Islanders fought back from a two-goal deficit, lost their seventh straight game Friday with a 5-4 overtime loss to New York at the Wells Fargo Center.

Nick Leddy scored the game-winner with 2:16 remaining in overtime.

Once again, the Flyers' top line did most of the heavy lifting as Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each had multi-point games.

Giroux reached 600 career points, tying him with Rod Brind’Amour for eighth on the Flyers' all-time list.

It was the 11th straight season that the Flyers have played their Black Friday game on home ice.

• Once again, the Flyers coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period. Andrew Ladd somehow had a wide-open look right in front of Brian Elliott, as no one picked up Jordan Eberle behind the net. Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim had net-front presence, but they couldn’t get a stick on Ladd or deflect the centering pass.

• Somehow Voracek got nailed in the third period for hooking Islanders captain John Tavares, who attempted to pull Voracek down on the same play. It elicited a strong reaction from the crowd. It appeared as if both players were fighting for the loose puck, but Tavares was the guilty party.

• After jumping out of the box after serving a matching minor, Travis Konecny caught a high-arcing pass and skated in on a backhanded breakaway, where he could have drawn a penalty shot as he was hooked from behind. Konecny nearly beat Thomas Greiss with a backhand and even had a rebound attempt.

• An unfortunate sequence for the Flyers, as Robert Hagg completely whiffed on a puck that was bouncing around on the ice. Eberle corralled it just to the right of Elliott, got his blade completely under the puck and elevated it just under the crossbar to cut the Flyers' lead to 4-3 in the third.

• Brandon Manning, in the third period, completely lost track of Jason Chimera, who flew down the left side of the ice on a pass from Casey Cizikas. The Islanders' fourth line was a real problem for the Flyers.

• A big blast from Giroux tied the game at 1-1, but it was a nice job by Hagg to step up on the play, which didn't allow the Islanders to break out of the zone. Somehow, the puck squirted right to Giroux, who blasted a one-time shot from the high slot that Greiss had no shot at. Last season, Giroux didn't score his 10th goal until Dec. 21.

• A bad goal given up by the Flyers saw the Islanders' fourth line tie the game at two. The play started when Scott Laughton left a backhanded pass a little short, allowing the Islanders to drive the play deep into the Flyers' end. Eventually, it was Cal Clutterbuck who redirected a shot from the point that Elliott had little shot of stopping.

• Danick Martel had a terrific one-handed pass to Laughton in the second period for a scoring chance down low. I wasn’t sure about Martel trying to squeeze through a pair of Islanders defenders, but somehow with his lightning-quick acceleration, he managed to knife his way through and make a play out of it.

• The Flyers broke a 2-2 tie on a delayed penalty call after Samuel Morin provided a big hit along the boards that allowed the puck to squirt free through the neutral zone. I liked the patience Giroux showed, as he waited for Shayne Gostisbehere to fill the slot and score from the high danger area. 

• The Flyers added another goal just 19 seconds later when Voracek caught Greiss by surprise with a hard-charging forecheck. Voracek had the presence of mind to quickly pass the puck in front to Couturier, who had nothing but a wide-open net after Greiss came out to play the puck.

• The Flyers scored all four goals in a span of 8:41, marking the second time this season they’ve scored four goals in a single period.

• A deflating ending to the opening period, as the Islanders scored with Mathew Barzal, the electrifying first-round pick of 2015, batting the puck out of the air that actually deflected off his pants, off the back of Elliott’s pads and into the net. Barzal was left alone with a breakdown in coverage between Gostisbehere and Morin, who were both caught on the left side of the ice. Valtteri Filppula nearly kept it out of the net.

• A solid opening penalty kill for the Flyers, who kept the Islanders around the perimeter for a good chunk of the two minutes. The Flyers came into this game having allowed seven power-play goals in their last three contests. Interestingly, Taylor Leier, who was part of the No. 1 PK unit with Laughton, wasn’t out there as Dave Hakstol has elected to switch up the personnel.

• A rough shift for Ivan Provorov midway through the first period, as he committed a bad turnover right on the stick to Scott Mayfield and was outworked by Brock Nelson, who worked the puck away from Provorov as the Islanders' third line gave the Flyers' top line some issues.

• Martel is a little bundle of energy and never appears to stop scrapping for pucks. That second line with Martel, Nolan Patrick and Simmonds played a strong opening period, which included Martel’s pass to Patrick that led to a Patrick penalty shot. However, the 5-foot-9 Martel got crushed by John Tavares along the boards. He needs to develop a little more grease in his game to avoid some of those big hits.

• Patrick elected to go backhand on Greiss on his penalty shot, but the Flyers' rookie didn’t commit until too late and Greiss wasn’t forced to move too far laterally. Patrick’s shot was about a foot wide of the left post.

Lines, pairings and scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Danick Martel-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jordan Weal

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim
Samuel Morin-Shayne Gostisbehere

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jori Lehtera, Radko Gudas, Dale Weise

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

ap-travis-konecny-flyers.jpg
AP Images

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

Danick Martel made his Flyers debut Wednesday night at left wing on the second line … without one NHL game to his credit or even a single practice with his linemates.

Perhaps it can all be viewed as a refreshing change for a team that needed a shock to the system, and certainly a different look for an offense that has routinely struggled to score goals.

But more than anything, it revealed a much more glaring problem for the Flyers: Has Travis Konecny regressed to the point that general manager Ron Hextall needs to consider other options?

Martel has now slipped into the role once occupied by Konecny, whose performance so far this season has been nothing short of sporadic.

The second-year winger had a string of games playing on the left side of Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds, but the line never really generated any sustained success, and head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t seem to know what to do with Konecny at this stage of his career. 

Left wing, right wing, second line, third line. One quarter into this season and already Konecny has been a linemate with eight different teammates, and his ice time has fluctuated anywhere between nine and 18 minutes per game.

This can’t be what the front office envisioned for Konecny when he made the Flyers' roster straight out of training camp in 2016. He may have played like an All-Star during the preseason, but exhibition hockey games typically lack a full complement of NHL players, many of which take the necessary measures to ensure they don’t overextend themselves and suffer an injury before the regular season begins. 

At this stage of their careers, the 22-year-old Martel and the 20-year-old Konecny appear to be almost side by side in their development. As Martel has exploded in his third season with the Phantoms, Konecny has struggled in Year 2 with the Flyers, and a lack of confidence has seemingly followed.   

He has just two goals on 84 attempted shots, many of which have left a black smudge on the glass behind the net, and he’s one of the few Flyers forwards with less than 50 percent of his shots on goal. Konecny, more than anything, needs to experience success along with a committed focus on his defensive responsibilities.

One Western Conference scout who attended Tuesday’s Flyers game against the Canucks believes Konecny could benefit greatly given time with the Phantoms. 

“He went straight from juniors to the NHL,” the scout, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “He hasn’t really learned to play a responsible two-way game at the pro level. I don’t think it would hurt him to refine his game and gain some confidence in the American League.”

Martel had no choice. He went undrafted after three seasons in the QMJHL. Nothing has been given and everything has been earned. Martel told Joe Santoliquito of the Philly Voice last week there’s a certain dose of determination that comes with being 5-foot-9, 162 pounds. 

"I love proving people wrong. It’s why I went undrafted,” Martel said. “It’s why I have a f--- you attitude! That started when I was younger. Not a lot of people trusted in the way I play and my size. I’m going to score anyway. That’s the way I think. It’s the way I play. I’m not small. I play big. You want to make a mistake. Judge me by my size.

“I love pissing off the bigger players because they automatically assume that they’re better than me. It’s why I will never stop working. I need to work on the defensive zone if I’m going to play in the NHL.”

Martel has a hunger and determination that Konecny needs to rediscover. There’s no reason he should have minor-league immunity. Scott Laughton needed a full year with the Phantoms to become the player the organization envisioned, and it appears to have paid off. 

As Hextall stated when he sent highly-touted Oskar Lindblom to Lehigh Valley prior to the season opener in San Jose, “American League time hasn’t hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. It’s not a death sentence.” 

Let’s remind ourselves that even Claude Giroux had a 38-game stint with the Phantoms. 

Right now, it can only help the career of Konecny in the same way it has worked out for Martel.