Will 2013-14 be Schenn’s breakout season?
So far, the signs point to "Yes." Through 21 games, the 22-year-old native of Saskatoon is tied for the Flyer lead with 13 points, scoring six goals and adding seven assists. Schenn is also third on the club with five points on the power play and has two game-winning goals on a team that has only won nine games this season.
Schenn has been hot lately, scoring three goals and six points in the last six games while playing on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds.
One encouraging sign is that Schenn believes in himself more this season. "Confidence is everything," Schenn told Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com. "You’re seeing different plays, you’re making different plays. For me, I try to keep chipping away here and build off the past week.”
Another factor working in Schenn's favor is his projected role.
While he stands 6'1" and is listed at 190 pounds, many NHL scouts project the former Los Angeles Kings first-round draft pick as a power forward. Power forwards tend to get more effective a bit later in their careers than pure goal scorers because they need to grow more to play a physical, banging style of hockey.
The Hockey News agrees with this assessment. It describes Schenn's flaws on the scouting section of its website, writing, "Needs to get stronger to better handle the top big defenders in the NHL. Also needs to improve his consistency in order to maximize his vast upside."
Flyers head coach Craig Berube told Panaccio that he sees Schenn making progress in this area:
We keep talking about [Schenn] being a power forward. It’s the skating and physical play and getting to the net and shooting pucks and being a power forward. That is what I want him to become. To me, that is what he is.
As he matures physically and grows into his body, Schenn should continue to develop into a more consistent power forward. As he gains experience, he should also play a smarter game. Those are two elements that Berube feels Schenn needs to develop to take his game even higher.
"Being physical is not running around and hitting guys when the puck is gone," Berube added. "Being physical is getting there when the puck is there and knocking a guy off the puck. And getting the puck."
According to Schenn, the longer the Flyers play Berube's more defense-oriented system, the more comfortable they'll be and the better both he and the team will play.
"Obviously, we're working on trying to put some wins together right now and playing pretty sound defensive hockey," Schenn told the Associated Press (h/t USA Today). "We're waiting for our opportunities to score and right now we're scoring when they're there, so we have to keep it going."
Many other Flyers players feel Schenn has a very bright future. "To me, he’s the total package," forward Jakub Voracek told Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post.
He’s got a good shot. He can pass the puck. He’s fast. He’s physical.
When I was younger, my biggest problem was consistency. It’s very hard to do that in this league. As soon as he does that, I think he can be one of the top players.
While many observers feel that Schenn has stepped up his game, that hasn't stopped rumors from circulating that Paul Holmgren may be willing to trade Schenn if another team makes him the right offer.
TSN.ca's Darren Dreger explained the situation:
The Flyers aren't trying to push out Schenn...but what they've told teams quietly is that if there is the right deal available...then absolutely they would include Brayden Schenn in a trade scenario. And we know Paul Holmgren likes to make that big blockbuster deal.
Most Flyers fans would prefer to keep their young power forward whose physical style of play should make him a favorite in the City of Brotherly Love.
Despite all his talent and potential, Schenn has never scored more than 12 goals in any NHL season. During the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he was on pace for roughly 14 goals.
Through the first 20 games of this season, he's on pace for nearly 25 goals, which would more than double his career high and would constitute a breakout year.
While it wouldn't put him near the league's elite power forwards, it would certainly take his game to another level, with the potential to improve even further as he grows and matures.