Cape Elizabeth’s Nick Laughlin scored the first two goals of the Class B state championship game against Messalonskee on March 11 in Portland. On the season, he had 17 goals and 19 assists, leading the Capers in scoring despite being a defenseman. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

When Nick Laughlin was a freshman joining the Cape Elizabeth boys’ hockey team, the Capers’ roster was chock full of forwards. So he made the move to the blueline and became a defenseman.

Four years later, you can say the move suited him.

Nick Laughlin

“I learned to like it a lot,” Laughlin said. “You get more ice time. You really see the entire ice.”

Laughlin completed his senior season as the top defenseman in the state, a two-way player who led his team in scoring. He was at his best in the Class B state championship game, scoring a pair of goals and assisting on another to help Cape Elizabeth win its first state title since 2006.

For his efforts, Laughlin is our choice as the 2023 Varsity Maine boys’ hockey Player of the Year.

“Nick’s a tremendous competitor. Every practice, every game, he took a lot of pride in the way we played,” said Jake Rutt, Cape Elizabeth’s head coach. “When someone’s physical and has the skill set he has, that allows him to make more plays.”


Laughlin scored 17 goals and added 19 assists this winter, and was named Class B South Defenseman of the Year by the division’s coaches. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Laughlin combined his physical style of play with a more studious approach to hockey this season to become a more complete player.

“He learned how to manage the game. Knowing when to take risks and join the rush, or move the puck if the rush isn’t there,” Rutt said.

The two goals Laughlin scored in the state championship game – 1 minute, 14 seconds apart in the second period – are perfect examples of his ability to switch gears from defense to offense. First, 2:31 into the period, Laughlin released a high, hard shot from the point to give the Capers a 1-0 lead. Barely more than a minute later, Laughlin joined the rush and scored on a quick wrist shot from the lower circle to give Cape Elizabeth a two-goal cushion in a game it would never trail.

Laughlin devoted more time to film study, to learn not just the tendencies of his opponents, but of his teammates.

“You’ve got to know who’s on the ice with you,” he said. “To me, one of the most important things I learned was when I have the puck at the point, I can pull it to the middle and get a better shot.”

In Laughlin, Rutt saw a player who took his role as a team leader seriously. Laughlin was an alternate captain for the Capers.


“He really thought about the game,” said Rutt, who served as an alternate captain with the University of Maine hockey team eight years ago. “He kept the game simple. He made strong first passes to find the space and create. … The competitive kind of gamer attitude he has, you don’t coach that. It’s there.”

Laughlin’s athletic future lies in another sport, football. A do-it-all wide receiver, Laughlin gained 1,939 total yards last season while scoring 29 touchdowns. A finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, Laughlin will continue his football career at the University of Maine.

“I think I’ll definitely miss (hockey), but I love football,” Laughlin said.

Cape Elizabeth’s 4-3 win over Messalonskee in the Class B hockey final vaulted Laughlin into an exclusive club. He has been a member of state championship-winning teams in each season, winning the Class C football title with the Capers as a junior in 2021 and the Class A boys’ lacrosse championship in 2021 and 2022. The hockey championship last month completed the set.

“Knowing the whole community is behind you, there’s a lot of pride with that,” Laughlin said.

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