When GM Paul Holmgren decided to trade away the two offensive centerpieces of his franchise on the same day, the plan was to change the team’s chemistry while building for the future. The loss of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter eased the emergence of Claude Giroux as well as bringing the Philadelphia Flyers a potential sniper in Jake Voracek, and a young power forward in Wayne Simmonds.
However, on June 23rd, 2011 the two biggest acquisitions were thought to be Brayden Schenn and the 1st round draft pick they received from the Columbus Blue Jackets. With that draft pick, Holmgren took the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League MVP Sean Couturier at number eight.
Entering their third full season with the Flyers, Schenn and Couturier are the key pieces that will determine the team’s immediate future. The orange and black are counting on them both to emerge as bona fide NHL stars; if they do the Flyers can contend for the Stanley Cup, and if they don’t the team could miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Schenn, who was referred to as the best player in the world not in the NHL when the Flyers acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings in the Richards deal, has been moved to left wing due to the team’s depth at center. He is slotted to start the season on the team’s second line with Vinny Lecavier and Wayne Simmonds.
The 22-year-old averaged well over a point game during his Junior hockey career, amassing 99 points in only 59 games in the 2009-10 season. As a Flyer, he has only tallied 58 points in 101 games. If Schenn were to live up to the expectations of being a 75-plus point guy in the NHL, it would certainly translate into the Flyers being one of the league’s elite offensive teams.
20-year-old Couturier has experienced slightly more success in the NHL, being the Flyers best defensive center since making the team as an 18-year-old rookie. A terrific faceoff man and frustrating defender, Couturier made a name for himself in the 2012 playoffs by completely blanketing Evgeni Malkin.
However, Couturier’s sophomore slump coincided with a poor year for the team. Coveted by other NHL teams, Holmgren made it clear that Couturier was untouchable despite constant trade rumors. Like Schenn, Couturier was an offensive juggernaut his last 2 seasons in Junior hockey, accumulating 192 points in 126 games.
If these two third-year players can find confidence in the offensive zone, the Flyers will be a force to reckon with this season. As Schenn and Couturier go, so go the Flyers.
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