When a team trades their captain, it is inevitable that a lot of pressure will be placed on the players that come back in return. Brayden Schenn has yet to play a full season in the National Hockey League, but it’s hard to believe it based on how high expectations are on the young forward to contribute.
Starting last season with injuries before finally getting a chance to stick with the club, this lockout-shortened year was his first opportunity to play an NHL season from start to finish. Though he may have fallen short of becoming a reliable secondary scoring presence, he took some positive steps forward in his development.
For Brayden, the season started with much promise. He began the year with the Phantoms and Sean Couturier tormenting the American Hockey League by putting up over 50 points between the two of them in just over 30 games. Schenn was responsible for 33 of those points, setting the stage for him to come into the shortened season firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately that was not the case, and he put up just two points over the Flyers first six games.
The negatives don’t necessarily end there, either. His faceoff percentage took a slight dip, and his shooting percentage also fell by over two percent. For those of you that fancy advanced stats, he led the team in offensive zone start percentage: his failure to win draws and get shots on goal gives possession to the opposition, putting the Flyers on the defensive. Most importantly, the scorer failed to match his goal-scoring pace from his rookie season, going the entire month of March without tickling the twine on his way to an eight-goal campaign.
When you take into consideration his cap hit over $3.1 million from an awkward rookie contract, it is probably fair to say that Schenn’s performance failed to match his salary; but is it fair to expect so much from a player who has played in only 121 NHL contests? To me, the problem lies in the contract that he signed with Los Angeles, placing him in an unfair position that demands success on the score sheet.
Though he took some steps back, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the long-term success of #10 in Philadelphia. Playing up and down the lineup, Schenn finished third on the team in hits while also managing to finish fifth on the team in goals in what could be a ‘down’ year. What he ‘lacked’ in scoring production he made up for big-time in assists, tripling his total from last season to finish with eight more points in seven less games played.
He also continued to shoot the puck, ranking fifth amongst Flyers forwards with the least amount of time-on-ice. He was held without a shot in just seven games – placing him amongst the likes of Claude Giroux, and second only to leading-scorer Jake Voracek. Basically, Schenn is throwing his body around and shooting the puck while also learning to become more of a distributor, and he has yet to play a full 82-game season in the NHL – what’s not to like about that?
I hope you are enjoying watching him develop, because odds are both Brayden and his brother Luke will be around for a while. This could be a good thing for the Flyers, because next year he gets his first taste of a contract season. With just one year remaining on his entry-level deal, if he wants to maintain his current rate of pay he’s going to have to continue to take steps forward in what should be his first REAL season in the NHL. If he can light the lamp, it will be to the benefit of both he and the Flyers as they hope for a bounce-back year.
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