Acquired via: Traded from the Los Angeles Kings with Wayne Simmonds and a 2012 2nd Round Pick for Mike Richards and Rob Bordson
Current Team/League: Philadelphia Flyers, NHL
When looking at the Philadelphia Flyers forwards, it's fairly easy to determine the role of each player. Claude Giroux, first line center and franchise player. Jakub Voracek, first line winger. Scott Hartnell, top-six forward. Sean Couturier, shutdown center. Wayne Simmonds, middle-six forward and power play specialist. You get the idea.
But then there's Brayden Schenn.
Acquired in the controversial trade that saw Mike Richards moved to Los Angeles, Schenn was immediately compared to the former captain. After all, Schenn favored a hard-nosed, aggressive style of play, and openly spoke of his admiration for Richards before the trade even occurred.
Now in his third season with the Flyers, Schenn is best categorized as an inconsistent contributor. He's been locked in as a top-nine forward on the roster since day one, and he'll have weeks or even months where he is consistently one of the top Flyers on the ice. Then, he goes through extended stretches where he is totally invisible, both at even strength and on the power play.
At age 22, streakiness is to be expected. But unlike Sean Couturier, who can still provide strong defensive play when he is not scoring, Brayden Schenn has not yet developed into a shutdown forward in the Mike Richards mold. He's not poor defensively, per se, but he's not someone that Craig Berube deems ready to take the truly tough minutes. As a result, Schenn's value has to come primarily via his offense.
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Looking at raw points, Schenn appears to be trending in the right direction. He's on pace for his best offensive season of his career, which holds up even after controlling for 5v5 ice time. Unfortunately, his underlying possession numbers have not improved along with his point totals, hinting that his improvement this season may be mostly a product of elevated on-ice shooting percentages rather than sustainable development.
The lack of a defined role on the team also has to be taken into account, as Schenn's duties seem to be in a constant state of flux. He plays the wing one month, center the next. He spends a game or two with Claude Giroux, then is tasked with anchoring the second line as center. Even more often, he's been asked to provide support for a struggling forward - first Daniel Briere, now Vincent Lecavalier.
It's impossible to know if this instability is having a negative effect on his development. But it definitely makes it more difficult to evaluate Schenn. Is he a center or a winger long-term? Are his slumps due to playing lots of minutes with players like Briere and Lecavalier, or are their struggles partially due to playing so much with Schenn? Is he a top-six forward, or is he more of a third liner on a true contender?
The Flyers don't seem to know how to evaluate Schenn, either. Over the past twelve months, the front office has locked up Giroux, Couturier and even Matt Read to contract extensions, and players like Voracek and Simmonds are signed long-term as well. But Schenn is still waiting, even though his current deal expires at the end of the season. He's a restricted free agent, so the 22-year old won't be hitting the open market. But the absence of a Schenn extension when every other core Flyers forward is secured for at least next season is telling.
Philadelphia could look to go short-term with Schenn, like they did with Couturier last offseason. Or, they could push for a longer contract, betting on Schenn's development turning the contract into a bargain over the long-term, as they did with Voracek and Simmonds.
And then, of course, there is the elephant in the room. The ever-aggressive Flyers are constantly in the market to upgrade, and the team has tried on multiple occasions to acquire a top pairing defenseman to replace Chris Pronger. While Philadelphia has long refused to trade either Schenn or Couturier in a deal for defense, the team's organizational depth at center is undeniable. Aside from Schenn and Couturier, the Flyers have Giroux, Vincent Lecavalier and top prospect Scott Laughton, who will most likely be in the NHL next season. And that isn't even counting players like Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Nick Cousins, all of whom are capable of playing center.
It would not shock anyone if Philadelphia decided to move one of Schenn or Couturier for an impact defenseman. And between Schenn and Couturier, the former would appear far more replaceable than the latter, as Couturier plays in every situation and has seen his responsibilities and ice time increase dramatically under Craig Berube.
The good news for Schenn (and the Flyers) is that he still has time to develop into the top-tier forward that many scouts thought he would become. Players tend to hit their efficiency peak around age 24 or 25, and Schenn is only 22. In addition, he's actually a positive possession player this season when away from Lecavalier, so it's possible that Vinny's much-discussed struggles are masking a solid step forward from Schenn. The Simmonds-Schenn-Hartnell combination in particular has showcased real potential as a secondary scoring line that helps to ease some pressure off top-liners Giroux and Voracek.
At this point, we know Brayden Schenn is a contributor at the NHL level. But the Flyers have much higher hopes for him, and if he is going to become the top-tier NHL forward that he was once projected to be, he'll need to take the leap very soon.
How we voted for Brayden Schenn:
Who we voted for at No. 3:
|Brayden Schenn||Shayne Gostisbehere||Brayden Schenn||Brayden Schenn||Scott Laughton||Brayden Schenn||Brayden Schenn||Brayden Schenn|