Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Scott Laughton was the Flyers first round pick in 2012. Picked 20th overall, the initial reaction was that the Flyers may have reached on the pick, especially given a glaring need on defense in the wake of the Chris Pronger injury and Olli Maata still being on the board. Now, completing his first professional season, Laughton’s been unable to stay at the NHL level so far.
Laughton’s OHL career didn’t show scoring promise early, but his age 20 season in Junior was fairly decent. His OHL scoring was 0.954 points per game which is concerning as most quality NHL players are usually over a point per game in Junior. In 24 AHL games over 2 seasons, he’s also added 16 points as of Feb 28, 2015. This is good for a 0.667 points per game in the AHL.
Rob Vollmann’s scoring chart shows expected point progressions for Junior to NHL players, using this formula was can extrapolate that Laughton will be good for 23 points per 82 games.
The AHL-NHL method shows that Laughton can be expected to hit is .49 points per game from the AHL-NHL, which translates to 27 points per game.
So, establishing that Laughton’s scoring potential is 23-27 points shows that he’s probably not top 6 forward material. An average third line center should score 14 goals and 36 points, Laughton’s 23-27 range doesn’t even hit the low end range of 31 points for a center. It does look good on the wing however, but the Flyers have been adamant that Laughton will remain a center.
What does that mean for Laughton? Well, the Flyers have a long jam of solid centers, Claude Giroux is one of the league’s elite players, Sean Couturier is probably close to being a true 2nd line center, Lecavalier isn’t going anywhere barring a retirement or a David Clarkson like miracle and RJ Umberger and Brayden Schenn have both moved to wing to accommodate positional needs.
Brayden Schenn’s scoring shows he’s either a very good 3C or a solid 2LW. While he may not live up to what he was hyped to be, he’s on a reasonable contract and quite honestly, the hype was overblown as, based on Schenn being an exact point per game player in the AHL during the 2012 lockout, the fact he’s scoring over .5 points per game in the NHL since 2013 means he’s producing above the expected model.
Laughton makes sense as the odd guy out, the Flyers desperately need a top pair defender and the odds Laughton overachieves his scoring potential are unlikely. So, the Flyers would be best served using him as a part of a trade package to land a top defender. Laughton by himself is likely not enough to straight up grab an elite defender, but Laughton could be packaged to a team in desperate need of help at center or in need of a cap crunching move for someone.
Luckily, there is a team that fits this mold: the Boston Bruins. The Bruins, like the Flyers, are in cap hell. The Bruins have to commit to signing RFA’s Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug this off season. Both are legitimate top pair defenders.
Torey Krug is a puck moving defender who fits in the vein of a younger, smaller Mark Streit.
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Krug’s defensive shot suppression is made up for by his scoring, he’s a quick, albeit small defender who would instantly slot in on the number 1 powerplay unit where Streit is now.
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Hamilton is a much more all around defender, he scores, suppresses shot attempts and is a big right handed shot.
How do you pry one of these guys away from Boston?
Well, Boston’s cap crunch means they likely will decide who to keep after this season at the draft so this deal couldn’t go through right away. However, depending on next season’s cap, the Bruins might ask for Mark Streit, Scott Laughton and a 2016 R1 pick for Krug, or Coburn, Scott Laughton and a 2016 R1 pick for Hamilton. The Flyers could also throw in rights to Jason Akeson or if they can’t fit him, Michael Del Zotto to help get the deal moving along.
It would have to be a blockbuster type trade, Krug and Hamilton won’t be had for cheap, but Krug is likely easier, he could take Boston to arbitration and walk away with big money. The Flyers would need to shed a big contract to fit him, but it is possible. The upgrade for the Flyers on D would be worth it and the Bruins would have some cheap cost controlled seasons from Laughton to see if they can get him to slot behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
That said, with the early indications of this marketplace at the trade deadline, the NHL is quickly establishing new market values for players.