Luke Schenn is now the torchbearer for the Flyers' 2007 draft class, even though Schenn himself was actually chosen with the fifth overall pick in 2008.
For the orange and black, owning the second overall pick in 07 was the consolation prize for the worst season in franchise history. It was the highest pick the Flyers had possessed since their selection of Mel Bridgman back in 1975, the result of trading Bill Clement, Don McLean and Philadelphias first-round pick (18th overall) to the Washington Capitals for the first overall pick. Interestingly, Paul Holmgren was the final selection in the sixth round of that draft and turned in a very productive career despite his low draft position.
Schenn was the return piece in the offseason trade for the underachieving James van Riemsdyk, who the organization was willing to part with after 196 NHL games that yielded just 47 goals. On draft day 2007, JVR was viewed as the oversized teddy bear you embraced after winning one of those carnival games. The Flyers left Columbus that weekend feeling like the kings of Whack-A-Mole.
Of course, that was part of the problem. Van Riemsdyk really was an oversized teddy bear the Flyers paid way too much coin for after rewarding the power forward with a six-year, 25.5 million contract following a stellar 2011 playoff performance that saw JVR score seven goals in 11 postseason games. The toughness exemplified during the playoffs never seemed to resurface the following season.
So, the Flyers decided to deal away fluff for a prize that has more of the rough stuff. Schenn is considered a defensive defenseman that consistently plays hard and physical. As much as van Riemsdyk felt at home here in Philadelphia, Schenn actually embraces the move.
"Toronto is obviously a lot of pressure," Schenn said. "A lot of media coverage. Every fan knows what is going on. Its the same thing here. People are pretty knowledgeable about hockey. Sometimes a change of scenery is good. A fresh start will be good.
It was a straight up trade -- van Riemsdyk for Schenn. The more pressing questions about that deal: Did the Flyers actually trade up? Will Schenn prove to be an upgrade over JVR?
The answers wont come for several years perhaps, but Schenn is now the remaining link to the Flyers' 2007 draft. Heres how that draft class looks now:
Round 1 (second-overall): van Riemsdyk -- Traded to Toronto for Schenn
Round 2 (41): Kevin Marshall -- Played 10 games with the Flyers, traded to Washington
Round 3 (66): Garrett Klotz -- Never played for the Flyers, with Norfolk of the AHL
Round 5 (122): Mario Kempe -- Played five games with the Phantoms, returned to Sweden
Round 6 (152): Jon Kalinski -- Played 22 games with the Flyers, traded to Tampa Bay as part of the Pavel Kubina deal
Round 6 (161): Patrick Maroon -- Never played for the Flyers, traded to Anaheim
Round 7 (182): Brad Phillips -- No longer in the organization
NHL executives rarely resort to hindsight when it comes to evaluating previous drafts. After all, selecting 18-year-old hockey players can be the equivalent of firing at a dartboard blindfolded. But for a franchise that has a track record of hitting the bullseye on first-round picks (Simon Gagne '98, Justin Williams '00, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards '03, Claude Giroux '06), the Flyers were a little off the mark with JVR.
Some of the players selected in '07 are now starting to blossom (Logan Couture picked ninth, Ryan McDonagh picked 12th, Kevin Shattenkirk picked 14th, Max Pacioretty picked 22nd). Of course, none of the players were ranked nearly as high as van Riemsdyk, but if the Flyers have any reservations at all, it may have come in Round 2.
The Flyers' staff obviously had its eye on someone special. They traded their third-round pick and their 2008 second-round pick to acquire the Capitals' second-round pick, 41st overall. They grabbed Marshall. Unfortunately, P.K. Subban was sitting right under their noses and the Montreal Canadians snatched him just two picks later.
So now the fifth overall pick for Toronto in 2008 is the pride of Philadelphia from 2007. Schenn can make Flyers fans forget all about van Riemsdyk and any defenseman that may have slipped through the cracks of the '07 draft.
E-mail John Boruk at email@example.com