Schenn, Kessel brothers clash in Toronto

Toronto forward Phil Kessel. Photo Courtesy Maple Leafs. (k)

It’s not often two sets of brothers play in the same hockey game at the NHL level.

But that’s what happened on Tuesday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers tangled in a pre-season exhibition game at the Air Canada Centre, which the visiting team won 4-0.

Two of the Leafs’ stalwarts, winger Phil Kessel and defenceman Luke Schenn, were joined by their rookie brethren, Blake Kessel and Brayden Schenn, who are both trying to crack the Flyers’ lineup.

For older brother Luke, the chance to play with his little sibling was something special—even if his allegiances were somewhat split.

“As the Toronto Maple Leafs we want to win, but at the same time you’re rooting for you’re little brother,” Luke told the media. “I hope he does well.”

Brayden, like his big brother, was a highly touted prospect from the WHL and was drafted fifth overall in 2009 by the Los Angeles Kings. Coincidently, Luke was picked fifth overall by the Leafs in 2008.

Being drafted by a Western Conference team, the Schenn family didn’t think the two brothers would play each other often, but when the Flyers dealt Mike Richards to the Kings for Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, it opened the door to the two squaring off more.

“We knew when he did make it we wouldn’t get the chance to play each other too often,” Luke said. “So now that he’s in Philadelphia, it’s a great opportunity for us. Same conference, so including exhibition we play each other six times this year.

“It’s great for us. He still has to make the team but it’s a step in the right direction for him to play all these exhibition games.”

Brayden had a decent game, picking up an assist on Wayne Simmonds’ power-play goal in the second period. Luke, on the other hand, struggled with his defensive zone coverage as he was on the ice for two of the goals against.

Unlike the younger Schenn, Blake Kessel was not a highly thought of prospect when the Flyers brought him in to this year’s training camp.

Blake, a defenceman, was taken in the sixth round of the 2006 draft by the New York Islanders, but has yet to appear in an NHL regular-season contest.

It’s the complete reversal for big brother Phil, who was the fifth overall pick by Boston in 2006 and he cracked the Bruins’ roster as a rookie.

Phil, usually a reserved individual, was quite animated when talking to reporters about the opportunity to play Blake.

“It’s the first time I’m playing him and I’m excited,” Phil said. “I’m sure it will be fun.”

Of course, Phil’s main goal is for the Leafs to win, but like Luke’s comments on Brayden, the older Kessel couldn’t help but root for Blake to have a solid game.

“I’d like him to play well here tonight,” Phil said. “He’s my younger brother and one of my best friends so I hope he does great out there tonight and has a good game.”

But since it’s an exhibition game with no points on the line, Phil didn’t think he would be taking the hammer to Blake, even though the two have probably exchanged in some brotherly fisticuffs during their adolescence.

“I don’t think I’ll be hitting him,” Phil said. “I don’t hit too much during the regular season, so I’m pretty sure I won’t be touching him out there.”

Phil stayed true to his word and didn’t engage in any sort of physical warfare with Blake.

Leafs bench boss Ron Wilson can likely relate, as he played college hockey with his brothers Brad and Randy back in the 1970s, so he’s probably not going to be too hard on Phil for holding back on Blake.

Blake had a solid game defensively for the Flyers, playing a quiet, yet a sturdy 20:46in ice time. Phil played nearly as much as his brother, 20:39, but aside from four shots wasn’t able to muster any sort of offence.

Either way, it will be interesting to see if the two youngsters crack the Flyers’ lineup and how they play against their older, more experienced brothers in the regular season.