Its that time again.
Time to identify the Flyers top line.
For two years, between 2009-10 and 2010-11, the Flyers were ruled by Danny Briere centering Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino.
Leino left, Jaromir Jagr arrived, and things were switched around last season with Claude Giroux centering Hartnell and Jagr.
Now Jagr is gone and coach Peter Laviolette has to shuffle his top unit again.
Going into training camp, all signs pointed toward Jakub Voracek ascending to the top line to replace Jagr, since he had a career-high 18 goals last season.
Even though the Czech is indeed getting some ice time there, three days into camp, young Brayden Schenn has been playing the wing there most times, not Voracek.
It would appear thats how things will debut Saturday on NBC when the Flyers host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jagr, at the tender age of 40, gave the Flyers 49 points on the top line last season. Schenn, at the more tender age of 20 a year ago, contributed 12 goals and 18 points in 54 games. All three were career highs.
Certainly, no one on the club is a true replacement for a guy headed to the Hall of Fame. As Scott Hartnell said, no one thinks the game like Jagr. No one.
So, what can Schenn bring as a second year player on the top line?
I dont know, Laviolette said. I guess were going to find out. Well I havent seen it really. If we decide to go that way, it will be an opportunity for him and that is what I was talking about.
So he finds himself at practice you know the right side with our leading goal scorer and our leading point getter Giroux and thats an opportunity.
So with that experience and as you mature your role gets expanded and then thats really an opportunity and its all about what you do with opportunities.
Schenn played well on the Phantoms during the lockout, leading the club with 33 points in as many games. He and Sean Couturier more or less dominated AHL opponents because they were legit NHLers playing among lesser competition.
He becomes your leading scorer down there so I think that there is a progression or at least there will be a progression that will lead to opportunity for him to show what he can do taking on more of a role and more situations for our team, Laviolette said.
The right side is new for him. Most feel he is a natural center.
Its a good thing for a player to play a little out of place whether its center, left wing or right wing, Schenn said.
Just to play anywhere and getting the opportunity with Giroux and Hartnell. Im looking forward to it, Im going to make the most of it.
Nothing seems to catch Schenn by surprise. Even when Laviolette told him he was getting an early promotion.
Lavy told me the day before, Schenn said. Its just an opportunity for me to go and play with one of the best players in the league and Hartnell is coming off a great year.
For me, Im trying to blend in and find chemistry as quick as possible and step up and fill that hole.
Jagr had that innate ability that comes with a guy whos been around two decades, to find players on the ice. Voracek is a more crafty player the kind who would complement Jagr.
Then again, maybe with Giroux and Voracek, they get in each others way because they both like to carry the puck.
Its still preseason, Voracek said. Its not my job to get the lines together.
Because he played so much wing last season, Schenn feels comfortable in making a transition with Giroux.
Giroux, obviously, the more he has the puck on his stick, the better he is, Schenn said. Its up to me to work hard, get him the puck and hopefully make plays with each other and all three of us get chemistry as quick as possible.
Chemistry is the key here. Hartnell started slow on Gs line last season, but came on.
He feels Schenn has made advances.
Hes a big body, Hartnell said. I think in the playoff games, in the Pittsburgh series, he was just mulling guys over. He was controlling that puck, making plays and doing everything that you want a big forward to do.
I think he grew out of a center man, but playing that right side hes doing a lot of skating. I think he has a touch around the net. So, Ill just keep trying to feed him the pucks, go to the net and my job is pretty easy. Just have to pick up the rebounds.
If the three of them develop cohesiveness, theyll be fine.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org