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Brayden Schenn might be the biggest unknown on the Flyers roster going into the 2011-2012 season. Scouts of all stripes have compared him to elite two-way centers Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews. At Flyers prospect camp, Schenn was excellent, scoring a hat trick in the scrimmage and looking every bit the part of the world's top prospect. But scouting reports and training camps and scrimmages are one thing, and an 82 game NHL season is quite another.
Under Laviolette, the Flyers offensive attack is predicated on the team's ability to rotate three main scoring lines over the course of the game, eventually wearing down the opposition and generating scoring chances. The team's top two scoring lines are more or less stocked with established players who have a proven ability to generate offensive production at the NHL level. The third line, centered by Schenn, does not have that track record.
Like the third defensive pair, the third scoring line will be counted on to take some pressure off of the top two lines in terms of both TOI and point production. Schenn is the key to that line. If he is able to step into the NHL game and produce at the clip that his scouting report suggests he should (between 35-55 points), the Flyers will be fine offensively.
If Schenn struggles, it will put more pressure on the first two lines and force Laviolette to over-play his major offensive weapons in Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Jaromir Jagr, and James van Reimsdyk in an attempt to compensate for a mediocre third line.
Again, the key here is depth. The Flyers need their third line to produce at least 50 goals in order for the team to succeed in 2011-2012. That isn't an absurd total, nor is it unrealistic. But for the third line to achieve that goal, Brayden Schenn will need to play up to expectations. If he falters, he could end up dragging the rest of the Flyers' offense down with him, especially come playoff time.
There is also the minor point that Schenn playing well could appease a Flyers fanbase that lost two of its biggest stars in the span of two hours not long ago. Life in the Wells Fargo Center tends to be a lot easier for the team when the fans are on the Flyers' side.