Better With Popcorn

On Brayden Schenn: A Schenn-alysis

In 2009, the Los Angeles Kings selected Brayden Schenn with their first round pick. Formerly a star with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings, and brother of highly-touted defensive prospect Luke, who was picked a year prior, Schenn possessed different kinds of skills that would encapsulate a top pick.

"When [scouts] talk about a comparable player in the National Hockey League, think Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers," TSN's Bob McKenzie said moments after the pick. "This guy is a complete package in terms of being a prototypical second line pro center in the National Hockey League who can do everything. Offense, defense, and most importantly, winning hockey."

Fast forward to 2014. After scoring his first NHL goal at the 2012 Winter Classic, and completing his first 20-goal campaign, the now-23-year-old centerman has accumulated 94 points in his 204 games.Those numbers are good for a 0.46 points per game rate.

Who is Brayden Schenn? Is he a first line winger to go along with Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux? Is he the undisputed second line center, even with Vincent Lecavalier in his way? Or is he a middling, slow, inconsistent player, just like his comparable before him?

According to's point projections, Schenn will finish only with slightly more points (47) than he did last year (41). Also, granted, those are fairly average second-line center points. But that begs the question—did the Flyers trade away one of their franchise cornerstones for an average second liner? Especially one picked fifth overall?

2009's first round hasn't proven to be truly spectacular in general. John Tavares and Victor Hedman, 1 and 2 overall in that draft, have proven to be franchise players. Many other first round forwards in that draft, including Evander Kane (3rd, 0.61 ppg), Nazem Kadri (7th, 0.63 ppg), Zack Kassian (13th, 0.32 ppg), Peter Holland (15th, 0.25 ppg), Marcus Johansson (24th, 0.52 ppg) and Kyle Palmieri (26th, 0.42 ppg) have turned out as average, but not exceptional, NHL players.

Obviously, more potential is there for players like Kane, Kadri and Johansson, as there should be for Schenn, but among his draft-mates, Schenn finds himself among average NHL company.

Hindsight being what it is, perhaps the true finds came in later rounds, like Ryan O'Reilly (33rd), Alex Chiasson (38th), Robin Lehner (46th), Tyson Barrie (64th), Sami Vatanen (106th), or Erik Haula (182nd).

Schenn has been accused of floating at times; not using his physical attributes to win puck battles along the boards. He was handed the keys to a very important spot in this lineup, but failed to keep a first line role nailed down.

"It didn't work [with Schenn]," head coach Craig Berube said, following a loss to New Jersey earlier this season. "At the time, during the New Jersey game, there just wasn't a lot of speed on the line. They weren't playing fast enough for me."

"I've got to take whatever opportunity is given to me," Schenn said. "I know myself I have to be better."

Along with his subpar scoring numbers, he has been a subpar possession player as well, with a 48.2% Corsi-for this season. Or in simpler terms, teams are taking 52% of the shot attempts against the Flyers with Schenn on the ice. All analytics with Schenn point to him having the puck less than his opposition, which usually translates to not having prime scoring opportunities.

All of this with more offensive zone starts (56.1%) than defensive zone starts (43.9%) this season. Usually, that translates to more scoring opportunities.

A popular career path rewards a young prospect with a lot of money after his entry level deal expires. Some have been graced with the "bridge contract" to prove that they can command big bucks. Schenn signed a two-year, $5 million deal this past summer. All signs pointed to "we want more from you."

"Brayden is capable of taking his game to the next level," GM Ron Hextall said after the deal was done. "Can he be more consistent? You can probably say that about every player on our team, but, yeah, I think that's a fair assessment."

Schenn agreed. He explicitly said he wanted to be better—to prove that this organization could count on him as a long-term solution to the Flyers. In the end, though, will 40 points on a regular basis be enough? Specifically for guy who was picked fifth overall?

The scary thing to think is this is what Brayden Schenn is. An average second line center who pokes in goals in netmouth scrambles, gives you decent point production, but won't soar to great heights. It would be a far cry from his exceptional World Junior Championship pedigree, where he dominated that level of competition to a point where it just wasn't fair.

Specifically in the 2011 World Juniors, Schenn scored a blistering 18 points in seven games. Every time he touched the puck, something happened. At the NHL level, either Schenn is not playing with the right kind of dynamic players, or he just doesn't possess the breakout ability of a star in this league.

Perhaps this will make for easier cap management. If the Flyers know they will get 50 points from Schenn, finding comparables will be easy. Unless he shows otherwise this season, expect no breaking of the bank to keep the younger Schenn brother around in Philadelphia.


Jordan Kuhns
Featured Writer
Twitter: @jckuhns@TCLFlyers