Last summer I deduced that the peak age for forwards in today’s NHL is between 27 and 28 years old, and it so happens that both of this week’s combatants (Brayden Schenn and Mikael Granlund) will be 27 before the end of the 2018-19 season. So does that mean they still have room to improve, or have we already seen the best from both? And who’s the better own for 2018-19 and beyond? Never fear, Cage Match is on the case!
Career Path and Contract Status
Schenn was drafted fifth overall in 2009 by LA, and proceeded to dominate upon his return to juniors that same season (99 points in 59 games). The 2010-11 campaign saw Schenn play for two different WHL squads, plus eight games with LA and seven in the AHL, only to get dealt in the offseason as a key chip in bringing then star Mike Richards to LA. The Flyers made Schenn an NHL regular right away; and starting in 2013-14 Schenn’s scoring began an upward trajectory, from 41 points to 46, then to 59 in 2015-16, with 44 of those 59 points coming in his final 45 games. But visions of a him parlaying that torrid spring into a breakout failed to materialize, as Schenn’s production fell back to 55 in 2016-17, and yet again he was traded – this time to St. Louis. In 2017-18, Schenn easily established a career scoring high, although his 70 points was seen as somewhat of a letdown after he emerged with 40 points in his first 37 games.
Granlund was selected ninth overall in 2010 and came stateside for 2012-13 after two cumulative point per game seasons overseas. He flourished in the AHL during the lockout, with 28 points in 29 games, then had a middling eight points in 27 NHL contests once the lockout ended. Still, that, plus the state of the Wild forward corps, was enough to secure an NHL spot for Granlund, and he showed he belonged, with 41 points in only 63 contests in 2013-14. That, however, would represent his scoring rate high until 2016-17, as Granlund disappointed with 83 points in 150 NHL games spread over the next two seasons. Then in 2016-17 he finally broke out with 69 points, and in 2017-18 didn’t miss a beat with 67 points in only 77 games.
Both players are inked through 2019-20. Schenn’s contract represents the slightly better bargain of the two at $5.125M per season (versus $5.75M for