In the time that I’ve been covering the Kings, it’s hard to remember a training camp that has held so much competition for spots, particularly among young players who might be ready to take the jump to the NHL. Brayden Schenn certainly fits into that category.
In an ideal situation, Schenn probably would start this season in Manchester and get a year of pro hockey under his belt. But because of the AHL-CHL arrangement, the 19-year-old Schenn would have to return to his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings, for one more season if he doesn’t make the Kings’ roster.
Schenn is in contention for a spot as the fourth-line center, and had a bit of an uneven game in his preseason debut Thursday but did score the Kings’ lone goal in their loss to Phoenix. Schenn said he’s not thinking about a return to the WHL.
“I haven’t put too much thought into junior right now,” Schenn said. “Obviously I’m here to try to make the team. Rules are rules … but I’m just going to try to keep improving day by day. I’m learning a lot from the older guys. Smytty has given me lots of tips, and I’m just trying to pick up on anything. He’s been great to me, and I hope that continues and I just want to get better day by day.”
Schenn scored his goal seven minutes into the third period. Earlier in the game, he had missed on a prime scoring opportunity, but this time he went to the side of the net, took a great pass from Dustin Brown and hit the post with his first attempt but then pushed the puck past Al Montoya on the rebound.
“Brownie made a good move on the defenseman there,” Schenn said. “As soon as I saw that he turned and stopped, I just kind of posted up there and got one crack at it. It hit the post, and I just kind of dove when I saw the puck sitting there. It was a nice pass by Brownie, and I was just glad to finish.”
During the week, coach Terry Murray left open the possibility that a young player such as Schenn or Andrei Loktionov might be able to step in and fill the role of fourth-line center, a role that would allow a young center to develop without as much pressure or heavy minutes. Schenn said that would be an opportunity he would welcome.
“Absolutely,” Schenn said. “I’ve just got to get my feet wet. This is really the first game that I’ve played since last year in the Memorial Cup. It’s been a long time, but I felt better as the game went on. First period, I was a little nervous and I didn’t really make too many plays. I didn’t feel like I struggled, but I thought I could have done more. As the game went on, I felt a lot better, but we didn’t get the win. … It’s nice to score a goal, but the goal would have meant more if the team would have won.”
Schenn missed the summer developmental camp with a knee injury, then missed this month’s rookie camp after he tweaked the same knee, but Schenn has been fine since the start of main training camp — “Knock on wood,” he said — and has been wearing a light brace on the knee for extra support.
“I wore one last year,” Schenn said. “It just gives me extra confidence, to go into the corner and not have to worry about your knee, stuff like that.”