PHILADELPHIA -- When Brayden Schenn was acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers in June, almost every story had some variation of him being "the best player not in the NHL."
The first half of his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers didn't go the way he wanted, but he's certainly started 2012 in the best way possible.
Monday, in a magical setting, in front of the biggest crowd of his career, Schenn made his first NHL goal the first goal of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The rookie center beat the Rangers' Derek Stepan on a faceoff in the New York end, winning the puck back to teammate Matt Carle. The Philadelphia defenseman fired a shot on net that goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped, but the rebound popped to Schenn, who knocked it into an open net at 12:26 of the second period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
It's the second time the Flyers' first goal in a Winter Classic was the player's first NHL goal; in the 2010 Winter Classic, defenseman Danny Syvret's first NHL goal was the only one scored by the Flyers.
Like that game in Boston two years ago, however, the Flyers came away from Monday's game with a loss, making it a bit of a bittersweet milestone.
"It's nice scoring there, but it would have been better if we got the win," said Schenn. "At the same time, it feels like it's been a while since … I haven't scored in the NHL before, and playing a little bit last year, and being hurt this year, it seems like it's taken forever, but it's good to get it in a game like this."
However, he hasn't had a chance this season to showcase the skills that earned him such accolades.
A shoulder injury suffered in training camp forced Schenn to start the season in the American Hockey League, but a strong start with the Adirondack Phantoms earned a call-up. He played just five games, though, before fracturing his left foot Oct. 26 and missing a month. He spent a few more games in the minors after he recovered, and returned to the NHL on Dec. 2. In his second game back, though, he suffered a concussion. That injury kept him out through the Christmas break.
The Winter Classic was just his third game back from the concussion, leaving Schenn continuing the fight to make up for lost time.
"I've played … nine games in the NHL and these guys are hitting the midway point, almost," said Schenn. "I'm just trying to get better game by game. Coming off a concussion, the first two games there have been … I took some hits in those games, now I think I'm ready to go."
Schenn is hoping he can carry his positive performance outside against the Rangers through the rest of the season. Beside his goal, he was a plus-1 -- his first positive plus/minus game this season -- with three shots in 13:06 of ice time, and won 12 of 16 faceoffs.
"It's a positive step," said Schenn. "Obviously I've been wanting to get it (a goal) for a while. I wouldn't get the break or it couldn't go in. A one-hopper off my stick, I was fortunate to bury it. I can use it as a step forward and that's what I'm going to do."
Schenn admitted that he has been pressing because of the reputation as a can't-miss kid that accompanied him to the NHL. He said getting his first goal knocked "the monkey off my back."
"I don't know, maybe a little bit of pressure," he said. "You want to get that first one. I guess it's over with now and now you just move on and move forward. It was good to get it."
Coach Peter Laviolette said he expects only good things from Schenn during the rest of the season.
"I think the biggest thing working against Brayden Schenn since he's come to our organization is not necessarily pressing, but injury alone. He's had three substantial injuries and a lack of game and a lack of ice time. Every time you have an injury, you're out an extended period of time, your conditioning slips a little bit, your timing slips a little bit. "
What I think the best wish for Brayden Schenn in the new year is good health so that he can come in and find a rhythm. He's a very talented person and I think he can do some good things for our organization."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK