Scott Laughton didnt get the call to represent his home country in the recent World Junior Championships in Russia. As should be expected, not making the Team Canada roster was a letdown for the 18-year-old center.
In a way, though, not getting an invite to play in the tournament resulted in an even bigger reward.
I dont know about pissed off, but I went back to junior and we had a lot of guys out and I developed my game a ton, Laughton said. So I think being left off that team really helped me develop and make this team for the first game.
Laughton, the 20th-overall selection of last years draft, played in his first-ever NHL game Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center. The end result, a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins (see story), wasnt ideal, but Laughton was able to show his coaches why he might be worth a second look.
On a line with Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read, Laughton saw 12:14 of ice time and won a pair of faceoffs. He also threw four hits finishing behind only Zac Rinaldo, Read and Scott Hartnell, whos also serving as his host for as long as the rookie remains with the Flyers.
I thought he played well, Hartnell said. He was moving his feet, he was finishing his checks. He was very sound defensively. You could tell he was a little nervous when he woke up this morning. But the first ones behind you, and you get to move on and go for the second and make it a better game.
Laughton did admit to experiencing some jitters, despite throwing three solid checks on his very first shift.
Its tough, he said. Youre looking across the ice and you see Sidney Crosby, a guy Ive been looking up to. We watch those guys on TV every year. Its tough, but youve just got to play your game and not worry about it.
After all, he said, every game is a tryout.
The Flyers have five games to decide whether to keep Laughton with the big club or send him back to the OHLs Oshawa Generals. His presence in the lineup Saturday is in great part due to the wrist injury that kept Danny Briere from playing but its not entirely implausible that the Flyers could keep him for a longer stint. They did it with Sean Couturier last season.
And, Laughton said, theres a reason hes worth keeping in Philadelphia.
My defensiveness, said Laughton, who's played on both the power play and penalty kill in Oshawa. Staying defensive, physically sound, I think thats going to help out because we have such good centermen on offense.
Laughtons education on being a Flyer came quick the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is a storied one, and playing in a game is far different from watching the two teams duke it out in the playoffs on television. But with both of his parents in attendance, Laughton did impress his coach.
I thought he played a strong game, Peter Laviolette said.He was responsible defensively and had about four or five good hits. He was strong on puck battles and had a couple opportunities at the net. I thought he did a nice job.
Its a tough situation to come into for a young kid, first game in Philadelphia, but I thought he handled it very well.
Of course, Laughtons performance wasnt flawless. Hes got more bulk and aggression than Couturier had as a rookie, but he was muscled off the puck a few times by Penguins defenders. Look for him to work on that going forward.
Nothing is a guarantee, but Laughton is expected to be in the lineup for Sundays game against the Sabres. Hes certainly hoping so he lives only 45 minutes away from Buffalo.
And hes been preparing for it for as long as he can recall.
I took every day seriously in junior and tried to develop myself and tried to get ready if the lockout ended, Laughton said. I just want to do everything I can here and try and impress for those five games if Im in the lineup.
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