Learning the ropes
The similarities are rather striking. Ryan Smyth, a Western Hockey League product, was drafted No. 6 overall in 1994 and cracked the NHL a year later at age 19. Brayden Schenn, a WHL product, was drafted No. 5 overall in 2009 and has made the Kings’ roster at age 19.
Perhaps it’s not shocking, then, that a bit of a mentorship has developed between Smyth and Schenn. When Schenn moved from the “rookie” locker room to the main locker room at the end of training camp, he was given the locker next to Smyth, and frequently in interviews, Schenn has mentioned Smyth as a player who he tries to emulate on and off the ice…
SMYTH: “It’s very flattering to hear that. With the experience I’ve gained over the years, I’d like to try to give back anything I can. With the hard work in practice, sometimes you don’t have to say much, but the things that you do can rub off. We’ve had a few talks. I like his style. I like his compete level. I see that the puck doesn’t die with him a lot of times. He continues the play, and that goes a long way. I remember coming into the league my first year, and I looked up to a few guys, like Luke Richardson, Kelly Buchberger, Doug Weight, and just took a few things from them. If I can give him anything, that’s great.”
Schenn is a center and Smyth is a winger, but the players have similar size and on-ice mentality. Smyth broke into the NHL at age 19 with Edmonton, at the end of his junior career, and I asked him what a 19-year-old needs to know about playing in the NHL…
SMYTH: “You have to do what you do best, and bring what you have brought to other teams to get you where you are right now. That doesn’t change. Sometimes it’s watching and observing other players, and sometimes it’s taking initiative. The thing with him is, he’s willing to do those types of things. That’s going to give him long-term longevity in this league, for sure.”
Incidentally, while Schenn’s salary-cap hit is listed on various websites as being $3.14 million, it will be significantly lower because of the way bonuses are structured in Schenn’s contract.