Laughton does little to stand out in Flyers' loss

scott-laughton-slide-ap.jpg

Laughton does little to stand out in Flyers' loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. -- He’s been between Scott Hartnell and Matt Read.
 
Between Tye McGinn and Read.
 
Between Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall.
 
Thursday night at Prudential Center against the Devils, Flyer prospect Scott Laughton played between Michael Raffl and Read.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette used a skeleton lineup minus eight players who will be on the final roster, including Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
 
The Devils won against the Flyers' “B” group (missing eight regulars), 4-1. That said, scoring has been a huge concern in preseason -- 11 goals in six games -- as we head into the real games next week.
 
It’s down to the nitty-gritty now as to whether Laughton can somehow squeeze onto the roster. And, if so, can he play up and down the lineup, because there really is no permanent spot for him.
 
“It’s definitely in the back of your mind. You are always thinking about it and it’s in the back of your mind, what’s going to be the end result,” Laughton said of trying to make the roster. “I try to stay positive.”
 
Last season, the Oakville (Canada) native lasted five games then was sent back to his junior club in Oshawa. Unless something shakes out or the club is willing to carry 14 forwards, Laughton seems headed back again.
 
Laviolette moved Laughton to a better line in this game with skill players. Raffl himself is looking to make the club at left wing, and to this point, has a spot on the final roster.
 
“I played pretty big minutes my first two preseason games and wasn’t too happy with them,” Laughton said. “I wasn’t moving my feet in London, Ont., especially. The game in Toronto, my second and third period were better. I moved my feet, I was more physical.
 
“I’m in game mode now. I’ve got my legs under me. This will be a big challenge for me and I hope I respond under pressure.”

He didn't.
 
Laughton played 15:42, had no official shots, two missed shots and one hit. He needed to have some kind of impact on the game and he didn’t, even though he played on the second power play and on the penalty kill.

After the game, Laviolette -- without referring to any player specifically -- said he was very disappointed in players, who are supposed to be fighting for job, failing to make a difference.

“Guys you were looking to respond needed to respond better," he said. "That’s what I don’t get. We’re in a training camp, an evaluation period and a process for guys to put their cards on the table and I was disappointed in that tonight.”

“You hit the post early and get confidence early,” Laughton said, referring to the first period. “New Jersey is a hard team to play against. Their defense, they shut you down. It’s a tough game.
 
“I need more. We lose 4-1 and I was second line centerman, at least tonight. You got to show more at this type of level here. It’s tough.
 
“I’m trying to make the team and this is my shot. You can practice as much as you want ... At the end of the day, it comes down to games. It’s not much coming into this building and losing like that.” 

Laviolette wanted to evaluate Laughton throughout camp with different players before the hockey staff makes its final cuts.
 
“It’s important to see him in different roles, different lines,” Laviolette said. “This situation, it would have a different look than other nights.”
 
There’s a school of thought that says sending Laughton back is not going to advance his game “if” he is dominating other junior players in the OHL.
 
The flip side of that is that it does him even less good sitting around as a healthy scratch or playing shallow minutes in a fourth-line role. Then again, Sean Couturier did that two years ago, and he was 18 when he made the Flyers' roster, though he played 14 minutes a game.
 
Laviolette doesn’t agree that Laughton can’t benefit from going back to Oshawa if that’s the final decision.
 
“I’m sure there are guys who have gone back and matured physically,” Laviolette said. “They’ve gained confidence and have had a positive year. So I’m not sure I buy that … I don’t think his season would be busted.
 
“I think there is room for improvement in both scenarios. Again, don’t read into my comments, one way or another.
 
“I think there is a case to be made for sending a kid back … developing physically, mentally and maturing and to excel on the ice and be an elite player in that league.
 
“I think there is [another] case to be made to move it [forward] and practice at this level and play at this level and work your way into a role like Sean Couturier did. There is a case to be made both ways.”
 
Laughton made the decision process “tough” on the Flyers last year and he’s done the same thing in this camp, as well. Alas, there remains too many centers.
 
Laughton said it was “huge” playing those five games and getting his lips wet to the NHL last winter after the lockout ended.
 
One nagging question is this: Does Laughton have to play center? The Flyers' hockey staff says “yes” because he is a natural centerman.
 
If this weren’t the case in which the Flyers could move Laughton around like they do with Max Talbot, then the decision to keep him is much easier.
 
“It’s a tough question,” Laughton admitted. “I played center all my life. That’s my main position. But a bunch of guys have moved positions in their career.
 
“I’m open to anything. Open to do whatever I can to make this hockey team and whatever that position is, I’m willing to do.”

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Brian Elliott

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Brian Elliott

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Brian Elliott
Age: 32
Height: 6-2
Weight: 209
Last team: Calgary Flames
2016-17 cap hit: $2.5 million

Scouting report
Drafted in the ninth round (291st overall) of the loaded 2003 draft by the Ottawa Senators, Elliott didn’t find much success in the NHL until he wound up in St. Louis in 2011-12.

Elliott joined Ottawa full time in January of the 2008-09 season and played his way into splitting goaltending duties with Alex Auld. In 2009-10, he was 29-18-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. He was traded to Colorado at the 2010-11 trade deadline for Craig Anderson. He played just 12 games for the Avalanche.

After Colorado declined to qualify him, Elliott signed a one-year deal with the Blues in 2011. He shared the net with Jaroslav Halak and ended up having his best season in the league. In 2011-12, Elliott was 23-10-4 with a 1.56 GAA and .922 save percentage.

He was an All-Star in 2011-12, too. He ended up playing four more seasons in St. Louis, but the Blues eventually moved on from him with the emergence of Jake Allen. The Blues traded him to the Flames at the 2016 draft but lasted just one season in Calgary.

Last season, Elliott struggled with the Flames before being relegated to the team’s backup. He eventually did regain the No. 1 job but didn’t do enough to please the Flames’ front office. He was 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Dougherty's projection
Elliott is one of the options on the market that I think would fit well with what the Flyers are looking for, and that is a proven veteran who has shown he can be a part of a tandem.

I know he didn’t pan out in Calgary and missed his opportunity at a big payout, which could very well could be his final chance to get a decent contract. I was a fan of him in St. Louis, especially when paired with Allen and Halak. I think he’s a good tandem goalie.

Financially, I think he’ll be a fit. I don’t see him getting much of a raise from his $2.5 million cap hit he carried on his previous contract. And I don’t think this goalie market is going to drive that price up, either. There aren’t many teams in the market for goalies.

So for what he’ll cost — probably in the $2.5 million range, maybe a little more — Elliott would be a solid option for the Flyers, but he may find more opportunity in Winnipeg, which reportedly is looking for a veteran goalie to pair with Connor Hellebuyck, 24.

I would imagine an Elliott-Michal Neuvirth pair would certainly give enough stability in net for the Flyers to compete next season and creep back into the playoffs.

For the Flyers, Elliott is an attractive option and one they’ll likely reach out to. Whether he comes to Philadelphia is something we’ll find out soon enough.

I still feel Jonathan Bernier is the early favorite but Elliott would make for a good signing.

At the right price, of course.

Hall's projection
Elliott fits the Flyers' plans here.
 
He's a 32-year-old veteran that has backed up and split time in net for much of his nine seasons in the NHL. At this stage of his career, he might not be looking for much more — he would likely be open to a cost-efficient deal in the ballpark of two years, as he's never had a higher average annual value than $2,500,000.
 
Ever since joining the Blues in 2011-12, Elliott has been pretty darn good. His 2.55 goals-against average with the Flames last season was his worst since 2010-11, which shows you his reliability. He also has a relatively clean health history, he's proven to be durable and also owns plenty of experience, including 41 postseason appearances.
 
This just makes a lot of sense for the Flyers and their current state. Elliott helps now and shouldn't block the future.

Paone's projection
The thought of Elliott in net for the Flyers next season makes sense for a few reasons.

First, he fits the mold of what Hextall and his staff are looking for. They want a netminder with some experience who can be trusted to step in and carry stretches work if needed. Elliott has the experience and he's played long stretches during his time in both St. Louis and Calgary. And with Neuvrith's injury history, the Flyers could very well need someone to step in for long stretches. So check that box off.

Second, he'll come at the right price for Hextall and the Flyers' brass after a tough season in Calgary. His season fizzled after the Flames gave him the chance to be the No. 1 guy on a talented team. But the reality is that lowered the price and will likely land Elliott a shorter-term deal, both of which can only pique the Flyers' interest some more. Check both those box off.

Third, Neuvirth would be a clear No. 1 option ahead of Elliott. That's not meant to slight Elliott, but, if you ask me, Neuvirth is the better of the two. I'm not the biggest supporter of full-on platoons because I feel confidence is of the utmost importance for a goalie and it's so much easier to be confident and get in a groove when a goalie doesn't have to constantly look over his shoulder. And that would be the case here as Neuvirth would be the guy in that situation.

Yes, Elliott's best seasons came behind a sturdy St. Louis defense that featured the likes of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, among others. And while he may not be the sexiest option on the market, he is a sensible option for the Flyers.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.