It’s time to give Brayden Schenn some credit on the progress he’s made this season.
The 23-year-old has been maligned during his first few years in Philadelphia, and it might have something to do with the impact that many fans expect a top-five pick to make after a few seasons in the NHL. However, he’s made strides at the start of the campaign and should be considered one of the Flyers’ stronger two-way players.
For all the issues that fans have with Schenn, he’s been one of the team’s most productive players possessing the puck during 5-on-5 play, arguably one of the Flyers’ most glaring weaknesses.
Schenn’s corsi numbers have hovered around 47 percent through the first few years of his career. The winger’s improved upon those figures this season, an impressive feat considering the Flyers’ aversion to possessing the puck. He’s fifth among Flyer forwards in terms of corsi at five-on-five (50.5 percent), and he’s been one of the team’s more creative forces on the offensive end. According to letsgoflyers.net, a site that is tracking all the Flyers’ scoring chances this season, Schenn ranks as the fourth highest Flyer forward when it comes to scoring chances for and against (as of 11/01).
His offensive involvement output has been outstanding as well. The top line of Jakub Voracek-Claude Giroux-Michael Raffl has been a driving force for the Flyers this year, but it’s Schenn who comes up fourth on the list, having set up 12 scores to go along with his 12 chances, leading to just under four plays of involvement per 20 minutes.
When Schenn entered the NHL in 2009 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, he was billed as a two-way forward, someone who could handle defensive responsibilities along with an offensive punch that is predicated on toughness and an ability to be strong with a puck — similar to the player he was acquired for. Although his defensive instincts took a little longer to develop, he is turning into a fine two-way player. Among skaters who plays top-nine forward minutes, Schenn has been on the ice for 134 shots against during 5-on-5 play, which ranks second on the team behind possession-savant Wayne Simmonds. Some of this could be credited to the now defunct line of Simmonds-Pierre-Edouard Bellmare-Schenn, but head coach Craig Berube now has him playing with Sean Courturier and Matt Read, giving him more defensive responsibility and going up against opponents top lines on a daily basis. In the same scenario, he also is third for goals allowed while on the ice with five.
To put it in perspective, Vincent Lecavalier was out with an injury for most of the season and has been on the ice for three goals in just 39:01 minutes of ice time as compared to Schenn’s five goals in 144:27 minutes.
One other improvement Schenn has made is his aggressiveness on the forecheck. The winger always seems to finish his checks and has become relentless while chasing the puck. His forechecking prowess directly led to a goal in the Flyers’ victory over the Oilers on Tuesday night.
While the more traditional numbers don’t say that Schenn is breaking out, he is currently on pace to top his career high in goals, assists and points. If he maintains his possession numbers, expect Schenn to finish the campaign with his first 50-point season.