COPENHAGEN - Brent Sutter was speaking to Paul Holmgren over the summer when the topic of Scott Laughton came up and the Philadelphia Flyers general manager noted that the prospect reminded him a bit of Mike Richards.
After Thursday, the two players have one more thing in common: both have served as captain of Canada's national junior team.
Richards led Canada to gold in the 2005 event when Sutter was also coach. "He wasn't necessarily the best player on the team, but he was the glue of the team," Sutter recalled.
Laughton, like Richards a first-round pick of the Flyers, was named captain of this year's world junior squad on Friday. Sutter, now back for a third tour of duty behind the bench at the world juniors, informed Laughton of his decision before practice and then announced it to the team at the end of the workout.
"Leadership with him comes naturally," said Sutter. "He's a well-respected player inside our dressing room. He has a lot of charisma to him. He demands respect. He comes to play every night and he plays the right way."
Holmgren's Richards comparison stuck with Sutter and has become clearer the more he's been around Laughton. And that's music to the 19-year-old's ears.
"I've looked up to Mike Richards for a while now," said Laughton, who plays for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League. "He's with the same agent as me and ever since my junior draft year I've been looking up to him and watching him and he's my favourite player so it's a pretty big honour to be [compared] to him."
Often times Canada's captain will be a player with previous world junior experience, but there are just three returnees this time around. Jonathan Drouin, an 18-year-old, is the only forward back and was named an alternate captain along with Minnesota Wild defenceman Mathew Dumba. The other two returning players are defenceman Griffin Reinhart, who will miss the first three games due to a suspension, and goalie Jake Paterson, who is competing with Zach Fucale for the starting job.
With that in mind, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Laughton had a pretty good idea of how he'd fit in this year.
"I'm an older guy with pro experience so I knew I was going to be a leader on this team whether I did get a letter or not," he said.
"I'm a pretty vocal guy so I'm going to continue to do that and also keep the room light and joke around a bit and things like that. Whenever a guy needs me to be there I'm going to stick up for my teammates. That's the biggest thing."
It's clear why Laughton was an easy choice for Sutter. The Oakville, Ont. native can do it all. He filled a shutdown role while helping Canada win titles at the under-17 and under-18 levels, but is also dangerous in the offensive end. When he left for Canada's camp a week ago, he was seventh in OHL scoring with 24 goals and 50 points in 29 games.
And, of course, he's also got some professional experience. Laughton got a taste of the NHL last season playing five games for the Flyers and then six more for the team's American Hockey League affiliate.
"That really benefitted me and was huge for me just in terms of my confidence," he said.
Laughton stuck with the Flyers out of training camp this fall, but was sent down early in the campaign without playing a game.
"It's definitely disappointing and it always weighs in the back of your mind," Laughton admitted. "Coming back to junior, I tried to use it as motivation and tried to play my heart out and be a leader back in Oshawa and I think I've done that."