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.”