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.”
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.”