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Flyers built for future with rookie center tandem

by Adam Kimelman
The new direction of the Philadelphia Flyers was set in motion June 23, when the team traded All-Star centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and in return received center Brayden Schenn and the eighth pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, which the team used to pick center Sean Couturier.

In their eight seasons together as part of the Flyers, Carter and Richards developed a deep friendship. The club must be hoping a similar scenario can play out with their new center-ice duo, as Schenn and Couturier spent the last week as roommates during the club's just-completed prospect development camp.

"I think because they're going to play together -- I hope I'm right -- for so many years, they want those two kids to get a head start to get to know each other," Flyers forward Ian Laperriere, who helped coordinate the prospect camp, told "When you get two focused kids like that living together, you don't have to worry about anything because they're so focused on making the team next year."

With the departures of Carter and Richards, there is room for at least one of Schenn or Couturier to make the opening-night roster, and both will be given every chance to be in Boston when the Flyers open the 2011-12 season Oct. 6.

Schenn, the fifth pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, was the big return in the deal that sent Richards to the Los Angeles Kings.

"He's probably the best player outside of the NHL that's not playing. He's a tremendous young player and I look forward to seeing him over the next number of years in our organization."
-- Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren on Brayden Schenn

"He's probably the best player outside of the NHL that's not playing," said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. "He's a tremendous young player and I look forward to seeing him over the next number of years in our organization."

It's been a whirlwind last 11 months for Schenn, who started the 2010-11 season with the Kings, played eight NHL games, was kept with the club as a healthy scratch until mid-November, and then sent to Manchester of the AHL. He was a point-per-game player there for seven games, and then had a record-setting performance in helping Canada win the silver medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship. He finished his season in the Western Hockey League, where he had 57 points in 29 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades.

Then there was the big trade, and getting to know new teammates, a new organization and a new city. He's also heard and read all the stories about him and Couturier being the future of the Flyers. However, Schenn said he's done as much as he can to block out all the potential distractions.

"Those are compliments, what (Holmgren) said about me, but you can't let that stuff go to your head," Schenn told "You have to keep working hard. To be here, meet new guys, meeting people from the organization, it's almost like a fresh start. Feels like I just got drafted again."

This was the third time Schenn has been part of a prospect development camp, and he tried to pass along his experiences to his roommate, Couturier.

"He was telling me he was nervous the night before (the opening of camp)," Schenn said. "He was nervous for his first skate. For me, I've been through a couple of these."

Couturier admitted to having some butterflies, but they went away once he hit the ice his first day.

"I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect," he told "Guys are older, bigger, but once the day got started, the first day, everything came back to normal and felt good. Once you get on the ice you just show your talent."

And there's certainly a lot of talent to show.

In his third season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the 6-foot-3, 197-pounder finished fifth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 96 points, in just 58 games. He had 96 points the previous season, which led the league, but he needed 65 games to get there.

Couturier also was the only under-age player to skate for Canada at the 2011 WJC, where he had 2 goals and an assist in seven games.

"All our guys liked him," Holmgren said. "Two years ago he was one of the better under-age players in Canada. This past year Sean, after the Canadian World Junior camp (in August), was diagnosed with mono, which zapped him of some of his strength. He struggled early in the year, but bounced back on not one of the better teams in the Quebec league, still had a good year offensively. He's a well-rounded player at a young age. He's very competent in his own zone and he's a guy that has some offensive pop, as well."

Like Schenn, Couturier followed the news of the Carter and Richards trades, but said he's not concerned with replacing anyone -- he just wants to make it to the NHL.

"I don't really think about the trades too much," Couturier said. "I just focus on myself and try to get better. I'm going to work hard and see what happens in camp."

It's that kind of focus in two of the team's newest prospects that has impressed Laperriere, who joined Player Development Coach Derian Hatcher, Adirondack Phantoms assistant coach Riley Cote and former NHL defenseman Joel Bouchard to lead this year's camp.

"What I noticed about Schenn and Couturier, they're different players, but what I'm looking for in this camp is attention to detail," Laperriere said. "Little things like stopping on the puck instead of turning away, or if they're not doing (a drill) right, they'll go to the back of the line to do it again. It's not to please me -- I'm not the coach, I'm not the GM -- but they know that's the only way they're going to get better, if they get everything right. To see that in an 18-year-old or 19-year-old kid is very encouraging."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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