-- When the chairs and name tags were set out on the dais in the Hall of Fame room at Wells Fargo Center prior to Tuesday's press conference, there was more than just a coincidence that Brayden Schenn
was placed right in the middle.
Schenn, a 19-year-old center considered by many to be the top young prospect in the game, likely will be in the middle of any success the Philadelphia Flyers
have during the next few seasons.
"At the time of the trade I publicly said in our opinion he's one of the top, if not the top, player outside the NHL," Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
said in introducing Schenn, along with Wayne Simmonds
and Jakub Voracek
, to the Philadelphia media, Tuesday. "We think a lot of Brayden as a young player."
Those are lofty words, but Schenn has done a lot to earn them.
Taken by the Los Angeles Kings
with the fifth pick of the 2009 Entry Draft, he made the Kings' opening-night roster and played one game before being returned to his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings. That season he finished tied for fourth in the Western Hockey League with 99 points in 59 games, and had 6 points in five games to lead Brandon to the championship game of the Memorial Cup. He also had 8 points in six games to help Canada win the silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
Last season he had 2 assists in eight games with the Kings, but remained with the team until November, practicing with the team while also learning off the ice and spending time in the gym. He was a point-per-game player in seven games in the American Hockey League, and then in December he was returned to the WHL, which he shredded to tune of 57 points in 22 games with the Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades. He also captained Canada to a second-straight silver medal at the 2011 World Juniors, along the way scoring a single-tournament Canadian record of 18 points in seven games.
So with that kind of resume, the only thing left for Schenn to do is begin life as a full-time NHL player.
"I feel ready," Schenn said. "I had experience at the Memorial Cup, 2 world juniors, last year played eight games and kind of hung around there for 20 or 25. Just had the experience practicing and stuff like that. All the experience helps. This year coming into camp, I'll be ready to compete for a spot and just going to try to make the most of it."
He's helping himself by training with Gary Roberts
this summer, working alongside Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner
and All-Star Steven Stamkos
"I trained with Skinner and James Neal
and Stamkos," said Schenn. "There's a big list there. If you train with those guys, you see what they do and push yourself to the next level. That's a big step this summer."
However, he'd be working out the same regardless of what anyone said about him.
"That's a great compliment," Schenn told NHL.com. "For me, I want to turn that comment into a player playing in the NHL. For me I think it's going to be a good opportunity here. It's a big summer for me. I'm going to come into camp and compete for a spot and just be ready. I think there will be some opportunities for me."
While lavish with his praise, Holmgren stopped short of saying anything would be handed to Schenn in September.
"As with any player, you get to training camp and you see," Holmgren said. "The players more than anybody answer those questions. Brayden is going to play in the NHL -- whether it's right at the start of this season, we'll see. That's what training camp is for. He'll be given every opportunity."
Living up to his GM's lofty praise is another big step, as is living up to the reputation of the player he was traded for. Mike Richards
went to Los Angeles in the deal that brought Schenn and Simmonds to Philadelphia. Richards was the Flyers' captain, an NHL All-Star and a member of Canada's 2010 Olympic gold-medal team.
It's ironic that Schenn and Richards were involved in the same trade, because when scouts have been asked for an NHL comparable to Schenn, many have pointed to Richards.
"That's one guy I tried to pattern myself after and I've heard people compare me to him," Schenn said. "Now to get traded for him is quite the compliment. He's a Canadian Olympian, he was close to winning the Stanley Cup and he's a great player. For me and Wayne to get traded for him, there might be a little more expectations, but at the same time you have to go out there and not change anything just because you got traded for Mike Richards
"I'm not Mike Richards
. I'm trying to be like him. ... I'm going to try to prove myself and play like him. That's a pretty good compliment from some people saying I do play like him because he is a great player."
In addition to watching Richards, Schenn kept a close eye on his older brother, Luke, a defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs
"I'm not Mike Richards
. I'm trying to be like him. ... I'm going to try to prove myself and play like him. That's a pretty good compliment from some people saying I do play like him because he is a great player." -- Brayden Schenn
"I've watched him from the world juniors to the draft, three years in the NHL," Schenn said, "and you just got to keep on getting better, keep on proving yourself, even for him. He's played three years and he's still trying to prove himself and make himself a good, established NHL player. I'm just getting started and I think I'm learning off him."
While leaving the Kings' organization was difficult, knowing he could face his brother four times in the 2011-12 season is a pretty nice thought -- if not for him, than certainly for his parents.
"They love it," Schenn said. "Getting traded to Eastern Conference, there's a chance of me playing Luke four times, two exhibition games, as well. They're a fan of it, and me and Luke are looking forward to it."
The excitement surrounding Schenn will be for more than just four games against the Leafs. Holmgren sees big things for Schenn, as does Simmonds, who got to watch Schenn for parts of the last two seasons.
"He's a great player," Simmonds said. "He learns every day, gets better every day. I think last year, being in training camp, he grew immensely. He played eight games with us last year. I didn't think he'd get sent back, I thought he'd stay up. He's a really young kid and he's got a lot to grow on. He's going to be a great player for a long time."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK