NHL Preseason: Laughton, A Strong Candidate on Day 5

As the preseason continues, so does The Hockey Writers’ three stars mini-series featuring the top prospects from every day of training camp. With the staggering number of injuries suffered by roster players this preseason, doors have opened for young players around the league.

On Thursday, the games were littered with young talent. Determined to show their worth and put their names in the minds of their respective coaches, these players were thrown into different situations looking to make a difference for their teams.

The fifth day of preseason was no different – with numerous prospects attempting to crack their big league lineups. While you could choose at least one player from almost every game on Thursday, there were three players that really stood out.

Kristers Gudlevskis, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

Coming off a great season by starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, it’s clear that Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lighting don’t have any issues in net. But on Thursday, it was Kristers Gudlevskis who tried to weather the Nashville storm.

Kristers Gudlevskis, NHL Preseason, NHL, Hockey, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kristers Gudlevskis should be the future in the Tampa Bay net. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

While his Lightning came up just short – losing 1-0 to the Predators – Gudlevskis played a solid game stopping 31 of 32 shots in just under 59 minutes. While the 22-year-old did suffer the loss, his play will leave him in the minds of the organization decision makers.

His 6-foot, four-inch frame helped him earn a spot on the Latvian Olympic and World Championship teams this past year. While he’s behind Bishop and Evgeni Nabokov on the team’s depth chart, Gudlevskis could have a shot at being the future in the Lightning net.

Andrej Nestrasil, C, Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have a history of great prospect development. They have this uncanny ability to turn late-round picks into quality NHLers. Andrej Nestrasil wasn’t picked as late as Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, but as a third-round pick of such a successful franchise has to stand for something.

On Thursday, Nestrasil demonstrated some of the skills that got him drafted by the Red Wings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He helped Detroit to a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks, scoring one goal and one assist in over 13 minutes of ice time.

Nestrasil recorded a plus-two rating and four shots on goal, and showed off his defensive abilities with two takeaways. He, along with line mate Tomas Nosek, combined for four total points while Nestrasil saw over four minutes of powerplay ice time. He won’t make the Wings out of camp, but the future is bright for the Detroit Red Wings.

Scott Laughton, C, Philadelphia Flyers

One player that could find his way onto an NHL roster is Philadelphia Flyers prospect Scott Laughton. The 20-year-old Oakville native has been an offensive threat for the Flyers this preseason every time he steps on the ice.

On Thursday, Laughton was a big part of his team’s 4-0 win over their Metropolitan Division rivals – the New Jersey Devils. Laughton impressed in all areas of the game, playing over three minutes on the powerplay and just under two minutes on the penalty kill.

He recorded three points (1g-2a) in almost 17 minutes of ice time with four shots and winning 60 percent of the draws he took. Even if he doesn’t make the Flyers out of camp, Laughton is a great candidate for one of their first call-ups. One thing is for sure, the Flyers – and Laughton – have a bright future.

NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 1 (Sept. 21)
NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 2 (Sept. 22)
NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 3 (Sept. 23)
NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 4 (Sept. 24)
NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 6 (Sept. 26)
NHL Preseason: Three Stars From Day 7 (Sept. 27)

For more, follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes or his column at @Tape2TapeTHW.