Saturday, July 1, 2017

Schenn closes one chapter, opens exciting new one in St. Louis

As free agency period opens at 11 a.m. (CT), Blues 
made their plunge at draft with acquisition of impact center

ST. LOUIS -- Call it a range of emotions for new Blues center Brayden Schenn in going from shock of leaving one team and elated to be going to another.

The 25-year-old Schenn, who was acquired on the first day of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago from the Philadelphia Flyers for center Jori Lehtera and two first-round picks, spent the past six seasons in Philadelphia after being acquired in 2012 from the Los Angeles Kings. L.A. selected Schenn with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft.
(Philadelphia Flyers photo)
Blues will give newly acquired forward Brayden Schenn
opportunity to play center, his natural position. 

There was a comfort zone for Schenn in Philadelphia, where he had 25 goals and 30 assists in 79 games last season, 17 of those goals coming on the power play.

But Schenn, who watched the early picks of the draft on June 23, could see the writing on the wall, and when the Flyers selected center Nolan Patrick with the second pick in the first round, the cupboard was crowded.

"I think just with us having that many forwards in Philadelphia and I don't think they expected to land the second overall pick too," Schenn said. "Obviously they did and they knew that it was going to be another forward, so whether it was me or someone else, it kind of felt like something was going to shake out. I got a text 30 minutes before from my agent and after that I was traded, so ..."

So ... Schenn became a Blue, who offer up a playoff-caliber team in the Western Conference that can give him motivation to move West despite the recent success with the Flyers, including 51 goals and 114 points the past two seasons.

"I think it's going to be a good team and a great opportunity," Schenn said. "I would say I'm real excited about how it all went down and the whole situation.

"... You want to be wanted, you want to be liked and obviously (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) has been around the game for a while and built some good teams. So for him to want a player like me, I think that's a compliment and like I said, I'm really looking forward to it. I've played in the East for six years and I would say one team I really don't know a whole lot about is the Blues. I just know it's not easy coming into that arena and playing there. They're always tough games but I don't know a whole lot about each player because I play them just a few times each year. I look forward to getting to know the guys and the team and the organization."

Schenn is expected to given the opportunity to play his natural position at center after playing mostly on the wing in Philadelphia since he arrived there in 2012; he'll join Paul Stastny, Vladimir Sobotka and Kyle Brodziak as the top four center icemen heading into training camp after the shoulder injury to Patrik Berglund that will keep the Swede sidelined until December. 

"In my conversation with him, that was what we said, that we plan to start him off at center," Blues coach Mike Yeo said of Schenn. "We want to really give him a good chance there. That's where he feels most comfortable, that's his natural position, so we definitely want to give him a real good look there at training camp. 

"We're going to try a couple of things in training camp with a couple of other people to see how it works out, but I definitely believe that we'll give Brayden a real good look at center here and some considerable time to get comfortable there."

Schenn may not know many of his new teammates but he'll see a familiar face behind the bench in associate coach Craig Berube, who coached Schenn five of the six years Schenn was in Philadelphia, including the last two as head coach from 2013-15.

"Brayden is a good scorer, he can put the puck in the net," Berube said. "He's got good size. I used him in all three positions -- left, center, right -- a versatile guy, and you know when he's banging and skating and physical, he's a good player, hard player.

"... He's what 25 now? He's starting to become a complete player now."

And that's why Armstrong pulled the trigger on a trade that impacts his roster now but giving up two first-round picks for a player coming into his own (Schenn has three years remaining on his contract with a $5.125 million average annual value cap hit remaining).

"Obviously he can score on the power play, he has a net front presence, he can shoot it from the slot," Armstrong said. "He's only 25 years old, just going to be turning 26 into training camp. His last two years have been his most productive. He looks like he's settling into that level of player. 

"We're hoping with the opportunity with a new group, there might be another level to his game. But we're excited because he fits into that age bracket with a (Alex) Pietrangelo, with a (Vladimir) Tarasenko, with a (Jaden) Schwartz. We have some younger players like with a Robby Fabbri, who's been here for a couple years. I don't put him in that grouping yet just because of his age, not because of what he's accomplished. He helps our scoring in that area, but I think we're going to score by committee. Tarasenko's obviously the lead horse in that area. The more guys we can have help chip in, not only relieves the pressure on him, but that adds more goals to him because they have to maybe not just focus on one player but maybe two or three."

And the thought of playing center, perhaps with Tarasenko, brings much excitement to Schenn, who was sort of cast by the wayside up the middle and used primarily on the wing. He did it but never quite felt comfortable doing so.

"Yeah, I'm real excited. To be honest, I kind of came into Philadelphia and they had a good team," Schenn said. "I was drafted at center and pretty much never played a game at wing until I got to Philadelphia. My first year I played center there and then second and third year, we just kind of had a logjam of centerman up the ice. And with (Claude) Giroux and (Sean) Couturier and (Vincent) Lecavalier there, the list kind of goes on and on, so I got moved to the wing. But years past, I played 30 games at center and I felt like I had some pretty good games and that's where I feel the most comfortable. For me, I feel like it gets me involved in the game. Through the middle of the ice, you kind of keep your speed a little bit more and it's not as much stopping and starting along the wall and that's where I'm most comfortable.

"I've been talking to the Philly guys for the past two or three years, trying to play a little bit up the middle, and I think there's just so many guys there. But yeah, for me to come to the Blues, where I think they do have really good centerman in St. Louis as well but if they want to give me a shot there, I'm obviously looking forward to the opportunity there. There's a lot of good forwards in St. Louis, so there's always that competition, you're always competing for spots and I'm looking forward to being a part of a solid forward group in St. Louis."

And that means a busy summer will get even busier when Schenn returns to Philadelphia from Kelowna, British Columbia in mid-July to close shop and head to St. Louis to find a place to live and turn the chapter to a new challenge.
(Philadelphia Flyers photo)
Brayden Schenn spent the past six seasons with the Flyers but is excited
to join the Blues after trade on June 23.

"I'm here in Kelowna B.C. and there's a bunch of guys out here for July and August," Schenn said. "Then I'm going to go to Philadelphia in mid-July and pack up my place and get that all sorted and then head to St. Louis and try to find a place. I've got a busy July here, but it'll calm down in August."

And then kick back up for informal skates and then training camp.

"I've felt like I've had some pretty good years there in Philadelphia but at the same time I felt like I got better," Schenn said. "I've still got another level to get to and I feel that I'm going to get there. So, I think it's a great opportunity in St. Louis. ... I'm looking forward to the whole situation and how it shook out, but yeah, I think maybe it was a combination of them bringing up a few more young guys and maybe just them having a lot of forwards. Maybe I was the easy guy to move."

And a guy the Blues are glad to take in.

No comments:

Post a Comment