DeNicola's Dekes: Flyers Open Practice, Scott Laughton >

Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 -

Thursday night's attendance at the Flyers open practice in the Wells Fargo Center was simply unbelievable. It was a practice.....not a game, NOT A GAME! We talkin' bout practice!

I had the opportunity to be one of (reportedly) 20,000 fans who packed the barn during the course of the evening. Watching our boys skate out on to the ice brought back a homey feeling that's been forced to hibernate well past its awakening date. 

As we're all aware, the Flyers open their abbreviated season at home on Saturday against our Pennsylvania state neighbors, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thursday's practice composed of mostly assignment drills. Some of which including power-play and penalty killing, dump & chase plays, and a shootout competition which capped off the night. Michael Leighton and Ilya Bryzgalov weighed in each net where white sweaters and orange sweaters exercised zone breakouts, pushing the puck up ice and finishing on either end. 

Bryzgalov stopped his fair share of top-notch shots. He not only stood tall in his crease, which so happens to be his best attribute as a keeper, but Ilya was also moving quickly from pipe-to-pipe. His glove looked strong, especially with some of the lower floating pucks that seemed to frustratingly squeak by him last season. 

His quickness shouldn't really be a surprise. The franchise netminder put on a performance in March 2012 that earned him NHL Player of the Month, which was followed by a chip-fracture he suffered in his right foot that. The injury hindered his lateral movement in the post-season series against Pittsburgh, a 6-game stampede that burned the bulb out from behind Bryz's twine. 

Our surrogate puck-stopper, Michael Leighton, looked as good as you can imagine, which is not saying much. Yea, it's a practice and we shouldn't be investing any concrete assessments on any of our players, but Leighton didn't operate the posts well at all. In fact, he looked awkward most of the night until the shootout competition where he put on a more shutdown performance than his successor. 

As long as goaltending makes the stops they should, then this team's goals-against ought to be a respectable stat through the season. 

Ed Snider has mentioned that our zone defense will be tightening up more than last year. This will mean the Flyers will be positioning bigger bodied defensemen closer to the crease to neutralize any slot-crashing, slot-camping opposition. 

Right-handed additions such as Luke Schenn and Kurtis Foster -- two ample blue liners -- will further strengthen this fulfillment. 

Speaking of Luke -- the 6'2", 230 lbs d-man looked strong on the penalty kill drills. His poke-checking was effective against the pass through the endzone faceoff circle and the points. We couldn't get a look at him taking the body, obviously, since practice wasn't very physical. And I never did notice his breakout passes or his changing of the direction of play. But his presence is undeniably noticed on the ice. 

Luke's not the tallest skater on the frozen pond, but the man-child carries a frame that will absolutely annihilate contention if thrown around efficiently. 

Luke's younger brother, Brayden, skated with the top line all night, which has been reported he'd do so all training camp long. He'll be attacking from Giroux's right-side, and mirroring Hartnell who will handle the left wing. 

Moving down the center position on the third line is Flyers #1 pick in the 2012 Draft, Scott Laughton.

With Danny Briere seemingly sidelined for the first couple games into the season, and Phantoms forward Tye McGinn sent back down to our AHL affiliate, Scott Laughton has earned a spot on the Flyers roster.

At least for now. 

Laughton, 18yrs old, has the chance to play five NHL games before Paul Holmgren has to make the decision to either send the center back to juniors, or permanently keep him around and suffer burning a full season off his ELC (entry-level contract). 

Some fans believe, due to the lockout and shortened schedule, that it's simply not worth watching an entire League Year melt off of the prospect's 3yr contract. No signs are pointing towards the Flyers keeping him on the roster full time or sending him back down to Oshawa once Briere returns, but it's comforting knowing our management has five contests to figure it out. 

As for his performance last night at practice -- the youngen looked pretty decent, but I am not an NHL scout. What the hell do I know? I saw the kid attack the net, but, more importantly, follow his shot. 

Laughton would put the puck on the cage and continue down its path, looking for the second chance. For a young player surrounded by overwhelming elements, to me.....that seemed sort of impressive. 

"It's just been practices for the most part, but the kid can skate well, and make plays. He's a smart player," bench boss Peter Laviolette said.

I'm very interested to see how he handles his responsibility on Saturday. Especially against a Club like Crosby & Crew.

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(Photo taken by Michael's incredibly crappy resolution. Thanks iPhone!)

Flyers Practice 01-17-2013.jpg 

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