Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dreams are made by Brayden Schenn of the Flyers

By Larry Wigge

It didn't happen because it was leap year day. You know, four more years until ...


It was February 29, but the date will long be remembered by Brayden Schenn. Schenn collected the first hat trick of his career a Philadelphia's 5-3 triumph over Calgary.

"It's nice to score a hat trick on top of a team win," Schenn said. "They're not easy to get. Goals are hard to come by in this league. Teams are so good. Goalies are so good. It's nice to get rewarded ... I was just a recipient of three great plays."

Three brilliant passes by center Claude Giroux.

"Brayden had a lot of opportunities to score," Giroux explained of his linemate attempting seven shots on goal in the first two periods and had nine for the game. "He's got that talent to be able to score goals from everywhere. He's a smart player and he's getting better and better every day."

Said teammate Wayne Simmonds, "He could have had seven goals. I thought that first one went in, but, obviously, they didn't agree.

"He did a great job going back out there going in front of the net and Giroux made an unbelievable pass to him for him to get that first one in. He played a hell of a game."

The career-high game gave Schenn 21 goals and 21 assists for 2015-16, one goal better than last season.

You don't have to look further back than his last junior season, when he totaled 34 goals and 55 assists for 99 points for Brandon ... and made his debut with the Los Angeles Kings.

Some might point out that Brayden has awoken since his brother, Luke, was traded to Los Angeles -- and they'd be right because of his 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in the 24 games since.

The 6-1, 195-pound from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, used to get ready for a hockey game by ...

"I used to walk around my house with my skates on," Schenn recalled, laughing. "We had a rink in our yard and by the time I was three years old I was out there with my dad."

The Schenn's, Brayden and his brother Luke, weren't rich ... but they were ready to play hockey at a moment's notice.

Jeff and Rita Schenn raised two sons who became first round picks in the NHL -- Luke was defenseman picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the fifth pick overall in the 2008 Entry Draft ... Brayden was a center chosen by the Los Angeles Kings with the fifth overall pick one year later.

The Schenn's honest work ethic is engrained by his father. The hard work that each one of them put into making it to the NHL is, well, just natural.

"My father said no matter what the score competitiveness is the key," Brayden recalled in another of a long line of phrases form Jeff Schenn. "The Edmonton Oilers once won a game 10-8. It matters whether both teams are fighting and battling."

"We definitely had the car talks and I remember sitting around the kitchen table and I'd be doing my math homework and hockey would come up and he'd be telling me about this and that," Schenn continued. "But he wouldn't force it on me, it was always me asking him questions because I trusted him and whatever he told me I'd apply and it seemed to work."

We'll get back to that match homework later on. If you ask Brayden or Luke Schenn what they would do with their life if they weren't hockey players, their answer would be the same.

"My dad's a firefighter. If I wasn't a hockey player I'd probably be doing that. I always thought it was pretty cool."

A funny thing happened on Brayden's journey to the show. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers along with right winger Wayne Simonds and a second-round draft choice for captain Mike Richards and minor leaguer Rob Bordson in a blockbuster deal on June 23, 2011.

Some might draw some comparisons to a December 19, 1995 trade. Old history. Yes, but still an apt trade, when the Calgary Flames acquired much-heralded prospect Jarome Iginla and veteran center Corey Millen from the Dallas Stars for Joe Nieuwendyk. Iginla, the best hockey player not in the NHL at the time, proved he was true to his reputation in many years later as will Schenn.

Oops! The expectations for Schenn had completely gone off kilter for a 20-year-old kid like Iginla. Even one with so much promise.

Sounds like what former Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley once said in one of infamous moments. The man for many sayings said of his Stanley Cup champion Avs remembered, "When you play older guys, they just get older. On the other hand, when you play younger guys, they learn from the experience and get better."

And getting better is just what Schenn has been doing.

Schenn's development has been steady ... and with each game you can sense his confidence growing, especially in the latter stages of the season. The only thing holding him back in his rookie seasons has been injuries.

"Every time he hasn't been injured, he's improved by leaps and bounds," Simmonds said. "He's so confident with the puck, he's a big body and he plays the game the right way. You see him improving almost every night he's out there.

"He's not afraid to be physical and he's got a lot of offensive upside."

He's hard nosed. Rugged. A player who could not only excel on the regular shift, he would kill penalties and play the power play.

"The backyard rink is where we competed," Brayden Schenn said of his childhood in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "A lot of battles, competitive battles, made sure I was better ... that's a big reason why I've been successful so far.

"Dreams don't always come true, but in our circumstance, we're lucky they did. You work hard and you push each other along the whole way. Him being a forward, me being a defenseman. We had one-on-one battles growing up as a kid in the backyard rink in Saskatoon."

Before that time, though, he took the ice a lot on three outdoor rinks on our block. There was also a big pond that we played on during the weekends when it wasn't dark out. The one in my backyard was rather big. We had chicken wire behind the nets to stop the puck. One of my buddies down the street had a really big rink. He had little boards along the side and big boards at the ends but the chicken wire was key from keeping a few pucks from breaking windows.

"Brayden could be the next Mike Richards," said then-Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

Trying to replace captain Richards is daunting to say the least. That's why this trade was confusing to Flyers fans. But Schenn understood.

"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 won 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."

Carolina center Jordan Staal says, "He's thick and plays hard and skates well. He's another player in the lineup we have to watch out for."

Now, the match questions for those youngsters who were taught to look for tight checking in beyond in the playoffs.

Schenn says, "I try to play the complete package -- do it all. Hit guys and put up points. That's what I'm all about."

Schenn is a character kid, he's a blue-collar player, he fits into whatever system you use. He's gritty, he's got good hands, he can play the power play, he can be a very, very good penalty killer for us. All those factors you are looking for.

Memories. Resiliency.

We're just now getting to know all about Brayden Schenn.

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