Entering his fourth NHL season, the expectations for Brayden Schenn may actually be lower than they have ever been before. Being selected 5th overall by the Kings in the 2009 NHL draft and then being universally believed to be one of the best prospects in the NHL, Schenn has always had high expectations. He is now 23 years old and coming off of a career year in which he scored 20 goals and earned 21 assists.
Although a 20 goal season for a 23 year old would usually be encouraging, the hype that has surrounded Schenn over the past few years makes that 20 goal number seem quite insignificant. It is also disheartening to see how other members of the 2009 draft class have fared:
1. John Tavares – Already a perennial Hart Trophy candidate
2. Victor Hedman – Top pairing defenseman who is only getting better
3. Matt Duchene – Has 3 20 goal seasons, earned 70 points last season
4. Evander Kane – One 30 goal season under his belt, though still showing some inconsistency
6. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – One of the best young defensemen in the NHL
7. Nazem Kadri – 20G, 30A last season, had 44 points in 48 games during 2013 season
Compared to his draft class, Schenn has under-performed. However, his development curve seems similar to that of former Flyers high draft pick James van Reimsdyk. JvR was a solid, but inconsistent and injury prone player during his first three NHL seasons. He eclipsed 20 goals once, but struggled with inconsistency. Schenn has also shown flashes of brilliance, but is prone to disappearing during games.
Much like van Riemsdyk in his 4th season (18G in 48 games, prorated to a 30 goal season), Schenn looks prime for a break out season. Here are three reasons why:
1 – His First “Normal” Season
As much as I hate making excuses for players, there is a case to made that Brayden Schenn’s abnormal circumstances have hampered his development. Going into his first season as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, Schenn suffered an injury that cause him to miss a large portion of the season. He ended up playing in just 54 NHL games.
The next season was the 2012-2013 NHL lockout. Schenn earned 33 points in 33 AHL games before the shortened season. He ended up putting up more points in those 47 games (he was suspended for one game) than he had during his 54 game rookie season.
Last season, Schenn’s third in the league, saw the Flyers fire their coach (the only one Schenn had played for in the NHL) and adopt a brand new system only three games into the season. Then, the Olympics caused a mid-season, two week break that is atypical.
This season, Schenn does not have any of those excuses. He has a whole training camp to learn the system and play a normal 82 game schedule. He should benefit from the continuity.
2- Quality Power Play Time
Schenn has been a fixture on the Flyers second power play unit over the past few years. However, with the trade of Scott Hartnell, there is an opening on the top power play unit, somewhere Schenn is yet to have significant time.
Schenn’s size and skill set make him the clearest choice to replace Hartnell on the power play (who replaces Hartnell on the top line is a totally different question, though it could also be Schenn). The Flyers have had a lethal power play over the last few years. The opportunity to be on the top unit with Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds will do wonders for Brayden Schenn’s productivity.
3 – Simmonds, Continuity, and Even Strength Improvement
Since coming to Philadelphia together in the Mike Richards trade, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds have predominantly played together at even strength. Although the players have great chemistry on the ice, they have not fared very well at even strength.
They both started over 55% of their even strength shifts in the offensive zone last season, yet neither finished over 52.4% of their shifts in the offensive zone. Even though this does not look good, they both have increased their numbers dramatically in that area since their first year in Philly.
Ron Hextall has stated that he sees the Flyers forwards consisting of multiple “pairs,” Giroux/Voracek, Couturier/Read, and BSchenn/Simmonds. There is every reason to believe that Schenn and Simmonds will be together again at even strength and that they will continue to improve their even strength effectveness.
Brayden Schenn is still a very young, promising player. He has a lot of potential. He is at the same age and has put up relatively similar numbers to former Flyers like (already mentioned) JvR and Patrick Sharp (right before he was traded). This season, Schenn could reward the Flyers for their patience as he is primed for a “break out” campaign.