|Schenn (photo by Steve Hiscock)|
If there was a Justin Bieber of hockey, it most certainly would be Brayden Schenn.
Rarely does a pro prospect garner as much interest as Schenn has over the last year.
Like Bieber, he’s everywhere. Schenn’s world tour this season has seen him make stops in Los Angeles, Manchester, Buffalo, Brandon and now Saskatoon.
All the girls have crushes on him, all the guys want to be like him. He’s uber cool and an unstoppable force…and he’s yet to score his first NHL goal.
Plus, if you hit up the local newsstand (do people still do that?), you’ll see his face plastered on a magazine cover too! Schenn was just announced as the overall number one NHL prospect by The Hockey News.
MM: Let’s start with the gold medal game at the World Junior Championships a few months ago. Canada is always the heavy favorite. Having had a few months to reflect on it now, why did Russia end up winning that game?
BS: I guess nobody will ever really find out, but I’d say a momentum shift. It was just a little too much. It’s one of those crazy things that happen. You never want to see stuff like that happen to you. But, I guess it is what it is.
MM: When you were in LA, you and I were joking at one point about how you barely know where you are on a nightly basis (LA, Manchester, Brandon, etc.). Shortly after the WJC you were on the move again at the WHL trade deadline. How emotional was that weekend for you, knowing you were probably leaving Brandon and the deal seemed to take forever to finally get done…
BS: Yeah, it was one of those things where there were a lot of talk and rumors floating around about me coming to the Blades and stuff like that. But, once it happened I was pretty excited. I was coming home and playing for a good team. The team won the regular season (they were the top team in the WHL) and now going into the playoffs, I think we have a strong team and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
MM: Were you a little surprised at how strong Brandon played down the stretch, after many people were predicting the demise of the Wheat Kings once they traded you?
BS: They played us pretty tough in the games we played them and they played well down the stretch. They still have a lot of good forwards. They’re a young team and I guess them matching up against Medicine Hat, they’re both run and gun type teams. Anything can happen in the playoffs, everybody knows that. But, yes, they definitely have a strong team coming into the playoffs here.
MM: The Blades played the Wheat Kings right after the trade. However, you weren’t part of that game due to the shoulder injury. When you guys went back again a few weeks later what did you make of the reaction from the fans in Brandon?
BS: Well, the Wheat Kings organization had a little thing on the jumbotron during the first TV timeout and the fans gave me a standing ovation. So, it was, nice to have that – it’s nice anytime you get that from a crowd like that. Over the years, the fans of Brandon were good to me and I definitely enjoyed playing there.
MM: More recently, another trade deadline rolled around – the NHL deadline. Obviously, there were a ton of rumors out there about you again. How nervous were you considering it had reached a fever pitch? Were you thinking you might be moved in a deal by the Kings?
BS: I guess rumors are rumors and that’s what happens when people talk. But, for me, it’s over with now and it’s out of the way. I’m just real happy to still be part of the LA Kings organization. They’re definitely going in the right direction and have a good team there. Hopefully in the near future I can try and crack the roster and play with the Kings.
MM: Talk about being the being the number one prospect in the organization. Do you feel pressure from that, like you need to live up to expectations quickly or risk being heavily scrutinized?
BS: Obviously, there is a lot more pressure there. But, I try not to worry about it – just keep doing what I’m doing here and not worrying about the rankings and all that stuff. I’m just trying to get to the NHL as soon as possible.
MM: You’ve been putting up big numbers in the ‘Dub since returning to juniors. Was there anything you learned during your time in the NHL or AHL earlier this year that has allowed you to fine tune your game a bit?
BS: I think it’s just that the speed of the game is a lot different. For me right now, I’m trying to learn to play like a pro even though I am in junior. Up there, you learn from guys like Ryan Smyth, (Anze) Kopitar and guys like that and you just want to take anything you can from them. I think just being around them, even though it was just two or three months, you learn a lot and I definitely enjoyed it.
MM: You sat next to Ryan here in LA (in the locker room) and you’ve previously talked about advice that he would give you. What about away from the rink, who were some of the guys you were able to bond with?
BS: Obviously, the older guys have their families and what not. I was rooming with Kyle Clifford most of the time. We’re obviously the same age and stuff like that. I still talk to him now and then. I’ve known (Drew) Doughty for a bit too. But, there wasn’t one guy in particular. I just tried to bond with everyone.
MM: Pulling pranks on your teammates is part of the hockey culture. Were there any good pranks pulled on you here in LA or have you pulled any good ones in Saskatoon this year?
BS: Well, in LA, I guess when you’re the younger guy they’re always out to bug you and stuff like that. But, that’s all part of being a rookie and you just have to have fun with it. Here, every now and then we’ve had some good pranks. But, I can’t really name one in particular. It’s not only me; it’s the other guys too. It’s all about having fun and I think it’s good for the team. You’re not out to get anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. But, it’s always good to have fun.
MM: So, what’s this about you and Bud Holloway and some love for the Roughriders (CHL football)?
BS: Yeah, when I was in Manchester this year, we went over to his house after we played we watched the Grey Cup game. Coming from Saskatchewan, the Roughriders are a big deal. He and I are huge fans. Whenever we’re around each other it seems to be quite a bit of the talk. He’s definitely a bigger fan than I am though.
MM: Back to the action on the ice, who is the best goalie you’re ever faced?
BS: Oh man, wow. Up in the NHL I played against Roberto Luongo and (Martin) Brodeur. There are lots of guys out there (in the WHL, NHL, etc.). You can’t really pin point one. I haven’t scored a goal up there though, so I guess they’re all tough for me at this point.
MM: Was that the most disappointing part about your time with the Kings this year – obviously, you made your debut and got some games in, which is great – but, was not getting your first NHL goal a bit of a bummer?
BS: I think the most disappointing part of it was not making it this year, first of all. But, not scoring, it’s going to come – hopefully in the future. I did have chances when I was up there. But, you know, you just have to make the most of it. I can’t worry about that now though. I just need to get ready for next year.
MM: Are you aware of the excitement that’s building in LA for you being part of the Kings in the future? Your name comes up on almost a daily basis. Fans are always asking, ‘What’s going on with Schenn, when will he be here?’
BS: I guess that’s a good thing. But, they have a pretty good team there right now. I just want to come into Kings camp next year and compete for a spot. That’s my goal next year, to make the team and stay there. The fans can talk all they want and I’m glad they’re excited. But, I still have a lot of work to do.
MM: Let’s wrap up with some WHL talk then. The Blades are playing the Prince Albert Raiders in the first round, starting this weekend. Size up the series and give us a few keys to the match-up.
BS: I think in P.A., they’re going to be ready. I don’t think they’ve made the playoffs in two or three years. So, they’re going to be excited. Anything can happen in the playoffs. So, I think the keys for us include sticking to the game plan and don’t let anything bother us. If we worry about us first, I think we should be fine.
MM: Using the ‘anything can happen in the playoffs’ line, if you had to pick one thing about the series that worries you, what would it be?
BS: Well, you never really know what to expect going into playoff time. But, I think one thing is they have a small little rink there that they’re probably going to jam in the playoffs. I’m sure the fans are going to be excited. Like I said before, they haven’t been there for a few years. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of excitement in that city. Going into an opposing barn, especially when it’s small and it’s not a very big rink size, that could be a scary part.
MM: The Blades are heavy favorites to win the WHL Championship, if not the entire Memorial Cup tournament. If you guys don’t make it that far, how disappointing would that be to you personally, given all that you’ve gone through this year?
BS: Yeah, definitely. That’s obviously the goal in mind and hopefully we can get to the Memorial Cup. But, you have to worry about one round, one game at a time. You have to look at the little things before you look at the big picture. Last year I was able to play in the Memorial Cup (with Brandon), but we lost out early to the Calgary Hitmen in the Eastern Conference Finals. So, playoffs are a grind and you have to know how to handle them.
MM: You obviously played against several of your current teammates when you were with the Wheat Kings. Coming over to the Blades a few months go, who is the guy you’ve been the most surprised by?
BS: Oh, I don’t know. Teigan Zahn, our captain, I always played against him and he was always tough to play against. But, for him, he’s always a team guy. He’s always blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win. You need those kinds of guys on your team and he’s your leader. As well as Curtis Hamilton, my linemate. I played with him at World Juniors and enjoy playing with him now. He plays a solid two-way game and he sees the ice well. I have a lot of fun playing with him.
How many more games will they play together this season?
One round, one game at time, just like he said.
Finally, to close out the Bieber thoughts…
Fine, Schenn is the older, more mature, tougher – and more talented – version. You happy now?
Who has better hair though is still open for debate. Just saying.
[special note: links to interviews with all other Kings prospects in the junior hockey playoffs can be found below – including Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey, Nic Deslauriers and JF Berube]
LA Kings Prospect Report – Schenn named top prospect in all of hockey
Interview with 2011 WHL Scoring Champion Linden Vey – 2009 Kings draft pick
Interview with 2011 OHL Scoring Champion Tyler Toffoli – 2010 Kings draft pick
Interview with Nic Deslauriers of QMJHL – with link to JF Berube
NCAA Playoff Preview: Interview with Derek Forbort – the Kings 2010 first round draft pick