The Kings will return rookie center Brayden Schenn to his junior team on Friday, a club spokesman said Thursday afternoon.
Schenn, the club’s first-round pick and fifth overall in 2009, started the season with the Kings and played eight games but then was held out of the lineup long enough to develop rust. The Kings got approval from the NHL to loan him to their Manchester farm team in the American Hockey League for two weeks, and he rejoined the team on Monday.
But the 19-year-old rookie was unable to regain a regular spot in their lineup. Coach Terry Murray had often cited Schenn's defensive deficiencies, saying they are part of a young player's growth process but too costly for the Kings to keep him in their lineup. Schenn is projected to be a scorer and second-line center but had gotten mostly fourth-line duty this season.
Recognizing that he wouldn’t gain anything by sitting and watching games here, the Kings finally decided to return him to Brandon of the Western Hockey League. If he had played 10 games, the first year of his pro contract would have kicked in. Sending him back now prevents that from happening.
The Kings’ reticence to play him had fueled rumors that they were preparing to trade him. After he practiced with the team Thursday in El Segundo, Murray tried to halt those rumors.
“He’s going to be part of our organization for a long time. This is a good young player and he’s got a very nice up side to his game,” Murray said. “Rumors are rumors, I guess. I would never agree to making a trade for Brayden Schenn. This is a high draft pick, a great kid and again has nice potential, up side to his game. We’re looking for him to be part of the L.A. Kings for a long time.”
Murray said he didn’t see a chance for Schenn to return to the Kings’ lineup because of Alexei Ponikarovsky’s imminent recovery from a broken finger -- Ponikarovsky was injured Nov. 6 and might return within the week -- and because he didn’t want Schenn to feel pressure to rescue the Kings from their slump. They have lost seven of eight games and have scored only four goals in losing their last four games in a row. They play the Florida Panthers on Thursday at Staples Center.
“I’m not going to put him into a situation where he, as a young player, might feel a lot of responsibility to go out there and try to get things turned around,” Murray said. “I don’t think that’s a fair thing.”
Sending Schenn back to juniors would make him available to play in the World Junior Championships, which begin later this month. “My candid opinion would be sure, that would be a great thing to be able to go play for Canada in the world juniors like that,” Murray said. “It’s great competition and valuable experience.”
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott