If there’s one thing the Flyers have been known for in recent years, apart from still being the Broad Street Bullies, it is their depth at the center ice position. It is this depth that has allowed their young, talented players to get their feet wet at the NHL level without being completely thrown the wolves. Going back to the 2005-2006 season is a nice example of how veteran leadership up front, coupled with ability that keeps opposition on edge allows the young center men to develop without facing top level, shut down defensemen, giving these young players confidence and valuable on ice experience. It is in this environment, that Schenn will be able to adapt to the pace of the professional game and become the player everyone expects him to be.
In the 2005-2006 season, both promising young centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter made their NHL debuts. They made their debut alongside the declining, but still lethal, Peter Forsberg and shutdown center Michal Handzus. Even with his declining health (he played only 60 games), Forsberg was still a threat on the ice putting up 75 points, and Handzus was, and is, a valuable defensively responsible center who still managed to put up 44 points on the year. This veteran savvy, coupled with the energy of youth, is what made Philadelphia a great place for young centers to be developed. Both Carter and Richards both had respectable rookie campaigns. Carter posted 23 goals and 19 assists for 42 points, and Richards contributed 11 goals, 23 assists for 34 points. While these weren’t mind blowing numbers, for young players playing a demanding on ice position they were promising. Their improvements would continue, apart from the aberration of the 2006-2007 season, where everyone’s numbers took a hit. This trend would continue as the youngster Claude Giroux would crack the lineup. While initially bouncing around the depth chart from center to wing and from line to line, he was eventually given a full time center ice position and has improved every season he has been with the Flyers. While playing in the 3rd line center position he was playing behind Mike Richards, who had since come into his own as one of the best two way centers in the league, and Danny Briere an established offensively gifted center as well as Jeff Carter who was earning the reputation as the leading sniper in the Flyers balanced offense.
With the offseason bombshell trades of Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles, the stage is set for Brayden Schenn to finally get regular NHL ice time. Expectations for Schenn were high before ever putting on a Flyers sweater. Regarded as one of the best players not in the NHL, right now he has “Mike Richards traded to LA for…” attached to his name. The prevailing theory is that Schenn has the potential to be better than both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but this first season will undoubtedly be hard on young rookie. He has been a winner and at least a point-per-game producer at every level he has played in so far, excluding his 9 name trial with the Kings last season. The 20 year old Schenn still has some time to mature both physically and mentally before this trade can truly be evaluated as a player for player deal, but right now he will have the same chances Richards had. He gets to play behind two established centers who will certainly garner the toughest defensive opposition, and in the extra space created by Briere and Giroux, Schenn can start to come into his own.