Last season was a bit of a tough introduction to the NHL for Brayden Schenn.
The fifth overall pick in 2009 was bounced around a bit by the Los Angeles Kings, who put him into eight NHL games but, not wanting to burn a year of his contract, also had him on a conditioning stint in the minors - an extreme rarity for a 19-year-old prospect.
Finally the organization pulled the plug on the experiment and sent him back to junior, where he had 57 points in 29 games and was a force for the Canadian world junior team that won silver in Buffalo.
On June 23, he was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers with Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick for Mike Richards, ending what had been a frustrating couple of years in the Kings organization.
Now he's considered one of the potential Calder Trophy candidates for the coming year.
Schenn has been in Toronto recently to work with Gary Roberts and take part in the NHLPA's all-Canadian mentorship camp. I sat down with him briefly to talk about his summer and next season:
Q. Is there a sense of excitement heading into this year knowing that there's likely a spot on the NHL team this time around?
BS: Hopefully I get a good opportunity this year. I'm feeling pretty confident, but I've still got a lot of work to do. It's a good team in Philadelphia, nothing comes for free, so I've got to go in there and earn my spot just like any other guy would.
Q. It does look like there's maybe some room for you to break in though whereas last year there ultimately wasn't with the Kings.
BS: Hopefully that's the case. Like I said though, there's a lot of good players competing for a spot like I am so it's going to be based on how my camp is.
Q. Was seeking out Gary Roberts a big part of your off-season plan?
BS: Two summers ago me and my brother were both thinking about it and it just never happened. For me, this year, I felt that I need to get in better shape and not only learn about lifting weights but everything else, too. Nutrition and the value of being as good as you can be and Gary teaches that. With the weight training, I feel pretty good right now, and with a month to go, still have room to improve.
Q. Have you been in Toronto with him all summer?
BS: I spent a little over a month at the beginning of the summer [in Toronto] then I went to Kelowna with my brother for a bit, then I'm back home [in Saskatoon]for a bit, too. I've kind of pinballed all over the place but at the same time I'm still doing Gary's program. I enjoy doing it. He teaches me great stuff and the most important thing is I'm feeling good about it.
I had an MCL problem at the end of the year and I just wanted to get treatment and rehab that and he did a good job and it's feeling good.
Q. Do you look at a guy like Stamkos and what he did with Gary and that's what you hope to get out of it?
BS: Obviously Steve's a good player on his own. Gary helped him a lot, too. Stammer is a guy who did well before he got to Gary, but once he got to him, took it to the next level. Not only him, but Jeff Skinner – there's lots of guys he was training who have good results.
Q. Did some of your friends in the program warn you how tough it was going to be?
BS: No, I already made the decision I was going to be there. I knew he expected a lot and he preaches a lot but that's what you want to go through if you want to be a good player.
Q: Was there anything in particular that you benefited from that will help you out next year?
BS: Nutrition. He's all about organic food, lots of veggies – there's so many things that he preaches. He gives you a postworkout meal, at the gym, and an example would be a salad with zucchini and cucumbers in it and the dressing would be like olive oil and lemon, that's it. He doesn't let you have any salad dressing. It's his way of teaching things.
There'll be organic wild salmon, and veggies and rice and pasta. Stuff like that. You eat lots, but it's the right things. It's not about eating three meals now; it's about eating six or seven. Not huge meals, but just making sure you're putting the right things in your body.
Q. Do you get a chance to cheat at all? Head over to a pizza place or McDonalds or anything like that?
BS: (laughs) I wouldn't say that. But the one thing I like is ice cream, once in a while. I know it's not good for you but frozen yogurt. Other than that though my meals are healthy. I couldn't even tell you the last time I was eating McDonalds. I just don't do that really.