Tricky Numbers Surround Flyers’ Brayden Schenn

With three games left to be played, Flyers forward Brayden Schenn has already eclipsed his career-high in points, set a year ago, by five points. The fifth-year veteran has dominated the field of late, notching six points in Philadelphia’s last three games. But despite earning the league’s second star of the week, is the 23-year-old’s sudden surge fool’s gold, or the blossoming of the next NHL star?

Tricky Numbers

In 79 games this season, Brayden Schenn has recorded 45 points, which continue to eclipse his career-high point totals. (<a href="">Amy Irvin</a> / The Hockey Writers)
In 79 games this season, Brayden Schenn has recorded 45 points, which continue to eclipse his career-high point totals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since making his NHL debut on Nov. 26, 2009, as an 18-year-old emergency call-up for the Los Angeles Kings, Brayden Schenn has gradually increased his point production with each passing season.

In nine games with the Kings between 2009-2011, the budding prospect secured only two points, hardly a proper litmus test worthy of calling the former first-rounder a bust.

After being traded to the Flyers, along with Wayne Simmonds, in the trade that sent Mike Richards to the Kings, Schenn has seen a steady climb in point totals, along with giving the Flyers double digit goal contributions in three of his first four seasons in Philly.

The stats say he’s part of the future. If Schenn hits 50 points, which he will with another five in these final three games, he’ll be one of just 18 players 23 or younger to do so this season. That isn’t nothing.

It just makes you scratch your head. — Frank Seravalli,

With 17 goals through 79 games, the younger brother of teammate, and defenseman Luke Schenn, will have three games at home to match his season-high number of goals with 20. Further, gaining five points to hit the 50-point threshold isn’t out of the versatile forward’s reach. Schenn has combined for five points against the Islanders and Hurricanes, two of the last three opponents the Flyers will face to close out the season.

The ongoing knock on the developing skater, however, is his lack of consistency. After all, where was this splurge in production when the Flyers were still thinking playoffs?

Schenn’s most recent spike in offensive output has been recorded in games after the Flyers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Even before they were officially ousted, the Saskatoon native notched only four points from Mar. 7’s crushing defeat in Boston through Mar. 28, the date before they were out of scenarios to sneak into the post-season.

During that span of 11 games, Schenn fell victim to scoreless streaks of three and six games, notching a goose egg in points for a total of nine tilts.

“I don’t think his game has changed that much to be honest with you,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said after Schenn’s two-goal night in Pittsburgh last week.

“I think that I said before that Brayden gets opportunities every game to score and they’re going in now for him. He’s been on that power play, in that slot area and I can’t tell you how many good shots he’s gotten off and opportunities, but they haven’t gone in.”

There certainly is such a thing as bad luck. But how much of Schenn’s streakiness can really be attributed to bad luck?

Schenn’s 102.96 percent PDO in all scenarios this season is the highest in the six seasons he’s appeared in the league, with his last three games certainly bumping that percentage up a tick. That’s hardly the sole factor in determining 6-1, 190-pounder’s luck, though.

In 79 games, Schenn has skated with the Flyers’ top leading scorers in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek for 29.19 percent of his total five-on-five deployment, while adding Wayne Simmonds to the mix in 11.8 percent of power play frequency.

How different would things be if the Flyers hadn’t started this season 1-8-3? They hit their stride too late to make a difference, but Hextall stayed patient and didn’t do a knee-jerk firing of coach Crag Berube. Offseason changes are expected, although Berube might not be among them. And yet, talk of trading two young centers again must give observers and fans pause. — Ray Slover, The Sporting News

If Schenn is to be among one of those centers mentioned in trade talks, the pause is justified. At 23 years of age, Schenn hasn’t come close to reaching his full potential, while – again – ascending point totals with every passing season.

In addition to his growing harvest of points, the natural center has also played all three offensive positions, making it difficult to establish any sort of true rhythm or chemistry with linemates.

Be that as it may, Schenn’s basic numbers may be misleading.

An Analytical Look at Brayden Schenn

Although Philadelphia’s lost season leaves much disappointment, Brayden Schenn hasn’t necessarily been one of them. But while his contributions in points continue to rise by the season, the same cannot be said for all of his advanced statistics.

At five-on-five, Schenn’s 49.57 percent SAT percentage is sixth among Flyers forwards who have appeared in at least 30 games. And while his current SAT percentage may stand as a second-best mark career-wise, it’s down from last season’s 50.98 percent mark.

Brayden Schenn's 49.57 percent SAT percentage at even-strength is the second highest at this point in his career. (<a href="">Amy Irvin</a> / The Hockey Writers)
Brayden Schenn’s 49.57 percent SAT percentage at even-strength is the second highest at this point in his career. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That’s not the smoking gun that slams the door shut on Schenn, however. After all, the Flyers have gone from a team SAT percentage of 50 percent at five-on-five last season, to 49.2 percent this season – a difference of 0.8 percent.

Schenn’s portion on the top two lines this season also explains his plus-7.20 percent fraction of relative zone starts. In comparison to previous seasons, it stands as his second highest since joining the Flyers, behind his mark of plus-10.40 percent from the 2012-13 season.

“Going the other way, there’s dumps, carry-ins and possession plays,’’ said Berube back in February. “If there’s one area that I think we can improve at, it’s puck possession, hanging on to the puck more.

“To keep the puck, without dumping it, and making some plays – there’s more scoring.’’

While it’s no secret that Schenn is still in the process of developing into the player the Flyers envisioned when trading for him, Schenn’s scoring chances at five-on-five are among the best of his career this season.

The fourth-year Flyer is fourth among Philadelphia forwards with at least 30 games with a plus-1.99 percent relative scoring chances for percentage, but perhaps he has Giroux and Voracek to thank for much of that. The difference between Schenn and third-ranked Claude Giroux in this category is 3.74 percent, a significant contrast.

Regardless, the numbers are what they are, and Schenn’s percentage in this category is still ahead of Wayne Simmonds and Scott Laughton, who spent the majority of his 31 games centering the Flyers’ second line.

In a nutshell, Schenn’s output in both the point, and analytical departments, show his development is neither ahead of schedule, nor lagging behind. His 11 game-winning goals over the past two seasons makes him the antithesis of a choke artist who pads his stats in mop-up time.

It would be easier, though, to argue against trading the young forward had it not been for the the eight scoreless streaks of three games or more this season. That’s a consistency issue that has plagued not only Schenn, but the Flyers as a whole.

Is he the problem in Philadelphia? Not even close. Moving him, however, could be a step in the right direction in solving the Flyers’ issues. Given Schenn’s evolution, it may just be a step back in that process.