Flyers general manager Ron Hextall says it’s too early to judge the Brayden Schenn trade that he made with St. Louis in June.
Way too early.
“Ask me that question in five years,” Hextall said the other night. “We traded Brayden for futures, right?”
Schenn, 26, is having a career season with the Blues (26-15-2), who on Saturday afternoon will make their first visit to the Wells Fargo Center since he was traded for two No. 1 draft picks, including a conditional selection this June, and Jori Lehtera.
Used mostly as a winger during his two seasons under coach Dave Hakstol, Schenn has flourished at his natural position, center.
“It’s always weird playing your former teammates,” Schenn told reporters in St. Louis on Friday, “but I’m glad it’s a 1 o’clock game. You get up, you get ready, and you go play.”
Schenn leads St. Louis in points (42) and assists (25) and is tied with gifted linemate Vladimir Tarasenko with a team-high 17 goals. In addition, he is plus-21.
One of the No. 1 picks the Flyers received in the deal turned out to be smooth-skating center Morgan Frost, who is tearing up the Ontario Hockey League and is regarded as a future top-six forward in the NHL.
“Our guys loved him,” Hextall said of Frost, “but Brayden is a very good NHL player right now. We know that. He scored 25 and 26 goals for us. You’re hoping in the end it’s a deal that works for both teams.”
Flyers winger Jake Voracek, who leads the NHL with 40 assists, planned to have dinner with Schenn and a few other Flyers on Friday. How does he expect Schenn to be greeted by fans Saturday?
“I hope it’s positive,” Voracek said. “I mean, he scored 25 goals [two] times. I’m sure he didn’t want to leave and didn’t expect to leave. He’s a very good friend of mine. He’s a great guy, great person. I miss him, but it’s a business. I had a lot of friends in Columbus, too, but I got traded. That’s the way it is, and you have to be happy for him the way he’s performing this year because he’s having an amazing season.”
Schenn, whose team dropped a 2-0 decision to the visiting Flyers and Michal Neuvirth on Nov. 2, said he circled Saturday’s game on his calendar when he was traded.
“When they were here, they got the best of us,” he told The Athletic in St. Louis. “It’ll be nice to get a win in the Wells Fargo against them.”
Schenn, who has managed just one goal in his last 12 games, and Voracek could be playing in the All-Star Game in Tampa on Jan. 28.
“That,” Voracek said, “would be awesome.”
Winger Travis Konecny has benefited from the Schenn trade and now has a spot on the top line. Konecny spent time on Schenn’s line last season and said he learned from him “how to be puck-hungry around the net. I think he’s always got that goal scorer’s mentality and is going to the net with the puck. I think what I learned playing with him is you’re not going to score unless you shoot the puck. Just look at Schenner’s stats, and it seems to work for him.”
After Saturday’s game, the Flyers (17-15-8) will host Buffalo on Sunday afternoon before being off the ice for four days during their mandatory schedule break. The Flyers are coming off Thursday’s 6-4 win over the Islanders.
“That’s something we talked about – that these next two games are huge,” said Konecny, who scored on a breakaway against the Isles. “We’re still climbing up the ladder here.”
“If we win these two, we can be comfortable that we did everything we could right before the break,” Voracek said. While on their break, “it’s out of our power where we’ll be in the standings” because some other teams are still playing.
Brian Elliott, who labored in Thursday’s win, is expected to face his former team and make his 16th straight start. Neuvirth (remember him?) will probably get the call against Buffalo. … Defenseman Brandon Manning was on the second power-play unit Thursday because Hakstol said he wanted someone with a shooter’s mentality. Val Filppula came off the unit.