Blues' Brayden Schenn hitting his stride in 1st all-star season
26-year-old forward wanted to 'make a statement' with new team
Let's go back seven years, to a time Brayden Schenn was one of the top teenage hockey players in the land, right up there with other studs from the 2009 NHL draft like John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene.
Before his 20th birthday, the younger brother of veteran NHL defenceman Luke Schenn already played in nine NHL games for the Los Angeles Kings and a dozen more regular season and playoff outings for the AHL's Manchester Monarchs.
He twice performed for Canada at the world junior championship. In his second appearance, in which he won tournament MVP honours, he matched Dale McCourt's 34-year-old Canadian record for points in a tournament with eight goals and 18 points in six games.
After a trade from the Brandon Wheat Kings to his hometown Saskatoon Blades, Schenn finished his junior career with an incredible scoring flourish. He checked in with 21 goals and 53 points in his final 27 regular-season games and six more goals and 11 points in 10 WHL playoff games.
But it has taken Schenn, now 26, time to hit his stride in the NHL. There were signs before that Schenn had another level in him, like his career-best 26-goal, 59-point 2015-16 campaign or his 17 power-play goals last season, tying him for the league lead with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. He also helped Canada win gold at the 2015 world championship.
Breakout season with Blues
This season, however, after being traded for the second time in his NHL career, has been a breakout season for Schenn. In 50 games, he already has 20 goals and 49 points with 32 regular-season games remaining. Schenn's strong start has him going to his first all-star game in Tampa Bay this weekend.
"We were just beginning our bye week when I got a call getting off the plane in Cabo [Mexico]," Schenn said. "It was [Blues general manager] Doug Armstrong. I'm excited to be going."
Schenn was shocked the Philadelphia Flyers traded him during the first round of the NHL draft last June. He knew the Flyers had too many quality centremen, especially after Philadelphia drafted Nolan Patrick with the second overall selection in the draft.
But Schenn figured someone else would be moved. He wasn't paying much attention to the latter half of the first-round draft, when he received a text from his agent saying the Blues were interested in him. Moments later, Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall called to deliver the news. He was on the move to St. Louis in exchange for forward Jori Lehtera and two first-round selections as well as a conditional draft choice.
As much as critics have stated that the Blues won the trade, it has worked out well for the Flyers, too. Schenn's absence has opened up an opportunity for Sean Couturier and the 25-year-old centre has matched Schenn with an identical 26 goals and 49 points but in two fewer outings.
Schenn has a theory for success
"I don't have a definite answer why it's worked out in St. Louis," said Schenn who split his time with the Flyers at centre and on the wing. "Maybe, it's been sticking to one position. I had a great opportunity in Philadelphia. But coming to St. Louis, I knew I was going to play centre, my natural position. This [all-star honour] doesn't come without acknowledging my teammates, the opportunity and the coaching staff."
Schenn remarked that he personally knew three players when he arrived in St. Louis: goalie Jake Allen and defenceman Alex Pietrangelo from the 2010 Canadian world junior team and Jaden Schwartz from the 2011 squad.
Of course, Schenn knew of sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. He played a major role in Russia's come-from-behind overtime win against Schenn and Canada in the gold-medal final at the 2011 world juniors.
Schenn, Tarasenko and Schwartz were the top performing line in the league before Schwartz's ankle injury kept him out the past six weeks.
"I came in here to try and make a statement right away," said Schenn, the fifth overall selection by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2009 NHL draft. "I'm playing with great players. It's been fun."