Laughton enters prospects camp minus microscope that greeted predecessors

Posted: July 11, 2012

SCOTT LAUGHTON was fulfilling a childhood dream on June 23 to a smattering of boos, when he first pulled the bright-orange Flyers jersey over his head at the NHL draft in Pittsburgh.

For Laughton, a new rivalry was born in an instant, when Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren called his name and the sour Penguins fans proudly offered their disapproval.

Laughton, 18, has had a little more than 2 weeks to digest the news. On Monday, he was wearing that same Flyers crest — only this time, on the ice with his new organization at the team's annual prospect camp.

"I mean, at the draft, it didn't really sink in until I came home and came over [to Philadelphia]," Laughton said. "It's a really nice feeling."

This summer, the Flyers' camp does not have the same buzz surrounding it as last year, when players such as Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn whizzed around the ice. By and large, it has been a quiet summer for the splash-obsessed Flyers.

For prospects such as Laughton, that might not be such a bad thing.

The Flyers nabbed Laughton with the 20th overall selection, 12 slots lower than Couturier, who was one of only three players from the 2011 draft class to play the entire year in the NHL. Only seven players from 2011 even played a game in the NHL last season.

Why? Few players have the maturity — both physical and mental — and the hockey sense to be able to compete against men who can be twice their age.

Admittedly, few members of the Flyers' brass even imagined Couturier being able to slide into a roster spot at this time last year. His on-ice intelligence and skill, coupled with his unflappable personality, proved to be too much for coach Peter Laviolette to turn down.

On Opening Night, when the Flyers watched the Bruins raise their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters in Boston, Couturier was on the ice to take important defensive-zone draws to seal a 2-1 victory.

Laughton is not Couturier — and he is 4 inches shorter. But if there is one thing that the two players have in common, according to director of hockey operations Chris Pryor, it is their awareness and intelligence.

"I hate to put tags or comparisons on any player, because the expectations just skyrocket," Pryor said. "Scott doesn't have the polished resumé like Sean. But I think Scott is the consummate two-way player. He plays both ends of the rink. You just don't find guys that can play both sides of the puck, they are far and few between."

Couturier collected back-to-back 96-point seasons in the Quebec Major Junior League. Laughton posted only three goals in his first 25 games in Oshawa, of the neighboring Ontario Hockey League, but he rounded to finish with 21 goals and 32 assists in 64 contests.

Laughton has drawn comparisons to Mike Richards — a player he calls one of his favorite to watch — and believe it or not, the two even have a similar playing style. Even Richards, though, required 2 more years of seasoning in the OHL to make it to Philadelphia.

The Flyers don't have any apparent openings on the depth chart for a prospect to make that big jump, with such a young roster already. But with Laughton's intelligence, Holmgren made a point to "never say never."

Without those lofty expectations, Laughton is just soaking in that first experience.

"It's a surreal feeling to go out on the ice, and you've got Ian Laperriere running drills, who you've watched play forever," Laughton said. "Just [to] learn from the pros, it's one of the best organizations in the world."

Awkward moment?

A little more than 2 weeks after his older brother was traded by the only team he's ever known, Trevor van Riemsdyk was in uniform at the Flyers' prospect camp on Monday. He spoke to the media just a few feet from a cleaned-out locker stall that housed James' equipment.

For some, that would be a little?…?awkward. James van Riemsdyk was dealt to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn on June 24, a few months shy of embarking on a 6-year, $25.5 million deal with the Flyers.

"I don't feel it's awkward [being with the Flyers]," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "I mean, it happens in the business. People get traded. I'm a different person. I guess some can see it as a little bit awkward, but I really don't feel that way."

Trevor, 20, recently wrapped up an impressive freshman campaign at the University of New Hampshire. He collected 19 points in 37 games as a defenseman.

"James has always had nothing but the best to say and now that he's gone, he didn't have any harsh words to say going out," he said. "It's cool to be here, obviously, for myself. I can feel thankful that I just got the opportunity. [James told me] to try not to do much to impress anyone, just be yourself and everything else will take care of itself."

Slap shots

The Flyers agreed to terms Monday with restricted free agent Tom Sestito, who played 14 games last season, to a 1-year, two-way contract worth $605,000?…?According to the NHL's on-ice officials, the Wells Fargo Center tied with Montreal's Bell Centre for best ice in the league this season. The facility, which scored an average of 4.6 out of a possible five points, was rated on hard/fast ice, snow consistency, ice rutting, ice edging, frozen puck and arena environment?…?Other family connections in prospect camp besides van Riemsdyk: Greg Coburn (brother of defenseman Braydon Coburn), John Stevens (son of former Flyers coach John Stevens), Nick Luukko (son of president Peter Luukko) and Chase Hatcher (son of director of player development Derian Hatcher).

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @DNFlyers. For more Flyers coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers.

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