Brayden Schenn starring for Phantoms as NHL lockout drags on

YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brayden Schenn, playing for Phantoms, is third in scoring in AHL through first quarter of the season.
YONG KIM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Brayden Schenn, playing for Phantoms, is third in scoring in AHL through first quarter of the season.
Posted: November 30, 2012

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - When Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren finally signed off on a long-rumored trade to bring Brayden Schenn's older brother, Luke, over from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brayden was relaxing on a boat with friends on a lake in Saskatchewan. That was June 23.

"The trade has sunk in," Brayden Schenn said Thursday. "But we haven't exactly had that first NHL game where we're on the same team, to get to share in that experience."

For now, as the NHL lockout reaches its 76th day on Friday, the Schenn brothers remain worlds apart. Brayden is biding his time in upstate New York, playing for the AHL's Phantoms. Luke is trying to keep busy skating with a pack of five or six NHLers in Kelowna, British Columbia.

For Brayden, getting sent to Adirondack last fall to start the season purely because of salary-cap reasons was frustrating. This year, without any other options left, he's looking at his stay with the Phantoms as a leg up on the competition for when (if) the NHL decides to play.

"I think you're always trying to see what's going on with the NHL lockout," Schenn said. "My brother is skating with NHL players, but they're kind of on their own. They work out and do their thing. But it's not the same. Even the guys that are playing in Europe, they're playing on a different ice sheet. Some guys aren't playing at all.

"It's not going to hurt any of us to be down here. We're not totally 'in' yet with the Flyers anyway. Whenever this lockout solves itself, I'll have a step ahead playing professional hockey. It's not like I'm just getting ice time in a bad league. There's a lot of good players here."

Schenn has distinguished himself among the AHL's best, ranking third in league scoring through the first quarter of the season. His 22 points are more than Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year last year in the NHL. He trails only NHL All-Star Jordan Eberle and rookie phenom Justin Schultz.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray was behind the bench for Schenn's first NHL game, as a member of the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 26, 2009. He was an emergency call-up as an 18-year-old for a game in Vancouver after being nearby with his junior team.

Schenn played eight more games with the Kings before being swapped to Philadelphia in the Mike Richards trade. Murray was fired by the Kings earlier this year and hired by the Flyers for his fifth stint with the team as player and/or coach.

"Since I saw him in LA, every part of his game has come along tremendously," Murray said. "He's physically more mature, mentally more mature. He's starting to really identify with what his niche is in the game. He's becoming a more complete player. His game with the puck is what really attracted your attention: He was a scorer, he really competed hard. It was his play without the puck that needed a lot of work."

Murray praised Schenn, saying he is often one of the first forwards back in his own zone. He has readjusted his focus once in the defensive zone, too, making sure he's not caught below the circles trying to help his defensemen.

At the other end of the ice, Murray said, Schenn has established himself as a clutch player. Schenn has 11 points in his last seven games. The Phantoms are 4-3 in those games, which included a three-game winning streak.

"He's the kind of 'big-game' player that coaches love," Murray said. "I can put him out on the ice in critical situations and know what I'm going to get out of him. He knows when he needs to step up; he knows the critical times and critical situations. Not all players recognize that. I've always believed the toughest thing in pro sports is to win when you're supposed to.

"If the lockout lasts the entire year this year, that will really be a very impactful part of his game - to reinforce it, to be able to be a reliable player, to know you can go out and do what you need when you need it."

Schenn has always been a consistent scorer in the AHL. He collected 12 points in seven games last fall before being called up for the remainder of the season with the Flyers. After a fractured foot and concussion, Schenn was one of the Flyers' top players in the playoffs with nine points in 11 games. He thinks he'll be even better whenever he is finally reunited with his older brother. You know, anytime now.

"I know he will help me a lot," Schenn said. "We know each other so well. If my confidence is down or I need a kick in the butt, it will be good to have your brother who you respect a lot and know real well to get you going. It will be nice to have him around."


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