We see it almost every year. There’s one player on the Stanley Cup winning team that has a sub-par season, but goes on a tear during the playoffs. The Bryan Bickell’s and Nick Bonino’s of the world won’t wow you during the regular season, but do just that come playoff time. Almost every Stanley Cup winning team has one, and it’s time to look at Scott Laughton as the Flyers’ equivalent.
Laughton netted four goals and added an assist in the three round robin games for the Flyers. Recently added to the second line with Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny, Laughton is finally showing that first-round draft pick potential. After garnering comparisons to Mike Richards, Laughton’s early-on career was lackluster. Some stints in Lehigh Valley and a seemingly permanent residency in the bottom-six now seem laughable. It wasn’t so long ago that we thought he would be a fourth liner for the Flyers. That was at the beginning of this season.
This season, Laughton has proven that he is an essential part to this Flyers team. He’s played up and down this lineup when asked, and thrived in multiple situations. He’s provided offense when the top lines haven’t, adding to the quality depth this Flyers team ices night in and night out. Simply put, Laughton is the quintessential middle-six forward.
His success in the round robin begs the question: can he sustain this type of play throughout a lengthy Stanley Cup run? History has shown that middle-six forwards have found decent levels of success in the playoffs. Dating all the way back to 2003 and even earlier, players like Scott Laughton have went on tears during the playoffs to lead their team to a Stanley Cup. Unlikely names bringing their team the ultimate prize in sports, and it happens more often than you think.
Starting with last season, the St. Louis Blues went on a run of historic proportions to make the playoffs, then take home Lord Stanley. Blue forward Jayden Schwartz contributed 36 points in 69 regular season games during that campaign. Come playoff time, Schwartz flipped the switch. During 26 playoff games, Schwarts netted 12 goals and added eight helpers for 20 points. He was second on the team in playoff scoring, trailing Ryan O’Reilly by three points.
Schwartz has had some great seasons in St. Louis. He amassed 63 points in 2014/15, and 59 in 2017/18. While missing 13 games in 2019/20 though, his point total took a hit. While he may not be the ultimate middle-six success story come playoff time, it’s worth nothing that after not dominating the regular season, he had a playoffs to remember.
Everyone’s favorite team to hate, the Pittsburgh Penguins, got some big-time help from an unlikely name during their 2016 Stanley Cup campaign. Bonino had 29 points in 63 regular season games for the Penguins. Come playoff time, he accumulated 18 points in 24 games. To put that into perspective, Phil Kessel had only four more points than Bonino, and he was the Pens leading scorer. Bonino’s 18 points trailed Sidney Crosby by one, and was tied with Evgeni Malkin.
As part of the coveted HBK line, Bonino wowed not just Pittsburgh fans, but hockey fans tuning into the finals as he ended up “hanging with the big dogs” when it came to putting up points. Another unlikely source of offense that made it count when the stakes were at their highest.
During Chicago’s dynasty years, the usual suspects were the ones leading the team in scoring. You had Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. Add in Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, there’s virtually no room for any more scorers, right?
Bryan Bickell entered the 2013 playoffs after a 23 point campaign over the course of 48 games. After 23 playoff games, Bickell found himself scoring the second most points out of all Chicago players, totaling 17 points in 23 games. The only player to outscore Bickell was Patrick Kane, and he only had two more points than Bickell. Bryan Bickell had a postseason to remember, and capped it off by bringing home the Stanley Cup.
During Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, Michael Ryder found himself a decent level of success amidst a roster chock-full of talent. David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand all led the Bruins in scoring for the playoffs, but Ryder’s 17 points in 25 games were the fifth most of any Bruin during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While the Bruins typically tend to be top heavy with the likes of Marchand, Bergeron, Krejci, and now David Pastrnak, they had some solid depth during their Stanley Cup victory in 2011. Ryder, Nathan Horton, even Mark Recchi suited up for the Bruins. Regardless, it was Michael Ryder who stood out more than guys like Recchi, and who can forget, Tyler Seguin.
Laughton as the Darkhorse
Scott Laughton’s 27 points in 49 games this season won’t jump off the page at you, but the fact that he’s got five points in three round robin games should. He’s now on a line that will no doubt produce. On the wing next to Kevin Hayes (41pts) and opposite of the Flyers’ leading scorer Travis Konecny (61pts), Laughton is relishing in his role.
If Laughton doesn’t go on to have the postseason that Bickell, Ryder, or even Schwartz had, it still opens the discussion of an expanded role for next season. Do the Flyers have a set-in-stone option for their top-six next season, or would a performance like this be a flash in the pan? If he can continue his play into the actual playoffs, you can count on him being one of the scoring leaders for the Flyers during these playoffs.
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