In Flyers pipeline, two young centers grow in confidence

Scott Laughton takes a break at the Flyers' volleyball game for prospects in Stone Harbor.
Scott Laughton takes a break at the Flyers' volleyball game for prospects in Stone Harbor. (SAM CARCHIDI / Staff)
Posted: July 12, 2013

Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, young centers who represent the Flyers' future, are taking different routes to the NHL.

At the Flyers' developmental camp this week, Cousins, selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, said he needs to be more defensively responsible to get to the next level.

Laughton, the Flyers' No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, said his ticket to the NHL is down the other end of the ice. Specifically, he wants to improve around the net.

"I'm just trying to work on my offensive game all the time," said Laughton, a hardworking, cerebral player. "I think my defense kind of takes care of itself, so I just have to develop those little skills, and this camp helps out, too. I feel pretty confident right now with my game."

Laughton and Cousins say their plan is to make it difficult for the Flyers to cut them after training camp in September.

"I like hearing that," said Ian Laperriere, the Flyers' director of player development. "You want your guys to have that type of attitude."

Because he will turn 20 on July 20, Cousins is eligible to play in the AHL this season. In all likelihood, he will be with the Adirondack Phantoms.

Laughton is 19, so he is not AHL-eligible and figures to be sent back to juniors. He had 56 points (23 goals, 33 assists) and a plus-22 rating in 49 games with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League last season.

The Flyers could decide to keep Laughton with the big team for the start of the season. His entry-level contract would not start until he played in his 10th NHL game this year.

Last season, Laughton played the first five games with the Flyers, and he was defensively sound before returning to juniors. That brief stint - and the 14 pounds he has gained since then - has him feeling much more comfortable about his situation.

"To get a taste of that last year and to see what it's like, I definitely want to stick this year," he said. "That's my goal."

Laughton stayed with veteran winger Scott Hartnell when the Flyers were home last season, and the experience of being with an NHL team "gave me a taste of what it's like to be a pro. Hartnell took me in, and to see what he's like and how he's been so successful . . . and how he handles it. To see those guys who you look up to and getting a chance to play with them with 18,000 screaming fans, it's a pretty special experience."

The 6-foot-1 Laughton has bulked up to 194 pounds after he was pushed around by Nick Grossmann during last year's camp. He has also improved his speed by working out with a skating coach and a new trainer.

Laughton was suspended twice last season - the result of a hit to the head and a check from behind - for a total of 15 games. He fine-tuned his offensive skills during workouts while he was suspended.

The suspensions won't make him alter his in-your-face play, a style that has worked for former Flyer Mike Richards.

"If I change my game, it just takes away from what I do and how I play the game and the fight I have," Laughton said.

Besides the young prospects, the Flyers have a surplus of centers, including Claude Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Adam Hall, and Max Talbot. Schenn and Talbot could play wing.

Laughton, who grew up just outside Toronto, seems unfazed by the numbers game.

He wants to open eyes in training camp and give the Flyers a tough decision. If they do send him back to Oshawa, "I'll try to be a leader and hopefully be a captain there," he said.

Breakaways. Defenseman Oliver Lauridsen signed a two-year deal for $1.2 million. . . . The prospect camp was held in Stone Harbor, N.J., on Wednesday. The last session is Thursday in Voorhees.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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