But there is one rookie who is poised to make the biggest leap in his second season: Brayden Schenn. Schenn and Couturier were widely considered the two best rookies for the Flyers last year. Schenn, 21, missed most of the 2011 slate of the 2011-12 seasons dealing with various injuries including a concussion. In 54 games with the big club, Schenn scored 12 goals and dished out six assists for 18 points. He added another three goals and six assists for nine points in 11 postseason games. He has made his presence known not just on the stat sheet but on the ice as well. Schenn has played physical hockey and endeared himself to Flyers fans by showing little-to-no respect for Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The centerpiece of the package received for Mike Richards certainly has impressed so far.
It is natural to assume that every rookie will improve upon their rookie season so why are expectations higher for Schenn than the others? The answer is two-fold. First off, Schenn should be way more comfortable this year than last. He has already played a season with the Flyers, dealt with the fans, and contributed to an emotional, fiery postseason series with an archrival. In addition to the experience he has gained, he should also be more comfortable around the locker room now that his older brother Luke Schenn is now patrolling the blue line looking to make a significant impact as well.
The second reason is a bit more obvious. Schenn has been playing alongside Giroux on the top line during training camp. He is taking the spot that was vacated by Jaromir Jagr when he signed with the Dallas Stars. Playing with Giroux seems to make everyone a better player. Look no further than the play of Scott Hartnell last year who had a career high 37 goals and tied a career high with 30 assists for a career high 67 points playing with Giroux. Schenn posted 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points in 33 games with the Phantoms before the end of the NHL lockout. His offensive production should increase on a line with new captain Giroux and assistant captain Hartnell.
Schenn showed us a lot last year as a 20 year old rookie. Now that he has set a high bar for himself, it will be fun to watch him evolve into a very good NHL player and, certainly, a hard hitter. We will get our first look at him in just three days!
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