EL SEGUNDO, CA — As the 2009-10 season wore on for the Los Angeles Kings, what became rather apparent was that they had a hole in their lineup at second-line center.
Although Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus have tried to fill that spot the last few seasons, both are far more suited to third-line center duty. Handzus, with his size, strength and strong defensive play is also effective on the fourth line.
Once the Kings qualified for the playoffs this past season, that hole in the lineup became a crater and was a major factor in the lack of production from their top two lines.
But help just might be on the way with center prospect Brayden Schenn expected to make a strong push to make the Kings’ 2010-11 opening night roster.
The 6-0, 192-pound native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan had a hugely successful 2009-10 season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, scoring 34 goals and tallying 65 assists for 99 points with a +41 plus/minus rating and 55 penalty minutes in 59 regular season games.
But Schenn, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, didn’t stop there.
Indeed, he took a break from his role as captain of the Wheat Kings to help lead Canada to a silver medal in the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship, scoring two goals and adding six assists for eight points with a +8 rating and four penalty minutes.
“We came up a little short, losing in overtime [in the goal medal game against the United States],” added Schenn. “But it was good tournament, good experience and I had fun.”
Schenn also helped lead the Wheat Kings in the WHL playoffs, scoring eight goals and contributing eleven assists for 19 points in 15 playoff games.
The Wheat Kings also played in the 2010 Memorial Cup (Canadian junior hockey champion) tournament, scoring a goal and adding five assists for six points in five games, leading his team to the Memorial Cup final, despite suffering from an ankle injury.
For Schenn, the highlight of his 2009-10 season was a one-day call-up to the Kings.
On November 26, 2009, he made his NHL debut at Vancouver, a 4-1 loss by the Kings, where Schenn did not record a point in 12:31 of ice time (see LA Kings: Brayden Schenn Becomes A King For A Day; Loktionov Goes On Injured Reserve).
“That would be another thing for the highlight of the year,” Schenn beamed. “That’s probably higher than the World Juniors. I played on a line with Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov, two great players who gave me a good chance for one game.”
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Schenn added. “It was a one-day thing, but it was a good time and I enjoyed the experience.”
Fast forward to July 2010…the ankle injury Schenn suffered during the playoffs kept him off the ice during the Kings’ 2010 Development Camp for their young prospects, held June 28 – July 3, 2010, but not out of the gym.
“I’m trying to get myself in better shape, to the level I need to be to play with the [Kings] this year,” said Schenn. “I’m going to come down for a few weeks in July and in August to work with [Kings Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim Adams].”
“It’s going to be pretty important for me,” added Schenn. “If that’s what I need to do to get to the next level, I’m going to do it. I’m looking forward to September and trying to get myself into the best shape I can.”
Despite having a good 2009-10 season, Schenn has an very steep hill to climb before cracking the Kings’ lineup. Indeed, it is far more likely that he will need more seasoning and will have to spend another season with the Wheat Kings, as he still needs to improve in several areas.
“It’s a lot different from the junior level,” Schenn explained. “There’s a lot more speed, guys are quicker, passes are better. Last year at the draft, they wanted me to improve my skating and quickness. I think from that time until now it has gotten better. I’m quicker. But speed is a big factor in the game these days. I still have to improve and I’m trying to work on that and just try to get better every day.”
“I’ve gained a lot of experience playing in the World Juniors and getting another year of junior under my belt,” Schenn elaborated. “The main goal is to try to be better all around—a little quicker, a harder shot. I think I’ve [improved year-over-year], but I still have a ways to go yet.”
Regardless, Schenn is determined to make a big splash at the Kings’ 2010 training camp in September.
“I’m going to have a good summer, leading up to September,” he stressed. “I saw what it was all about last year and I’m looking forward to it.”
He certainly isn’t the only one.
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.