THERE WAS a little smile on Brayden Schenn's face, almost as if he knew the line of questioning coming his way.
Camp opened last Friday in its entirety, and when the Flyers started filtering onto the ice with jersey combinations that signaled linemates, Schenn was in a peculiar spot, skating with Scott Laughton and Chris Porter - two players likely to begin the season with Lehigh Valley. He remained in that spot the first few days of camp, through Monday's preseason opener.
It was hardly a ringing endorsement for Schenn, who is coming off a career-high 47 points.
General manager Ron Hextall said over the summer that Schenn was in a group of players he expected to take the next step.
Was a message being sent by Hextall and new coach Dave Hakstol in camp's first week?
"No. Not one bit," Schenn said when asked. "I started on the top line last year. That lasted five or 10 games. I started on the top line two years ago with (Scott) Hartnell and (Claude Giroux), and that lasted a game. Things switch so fast. I don't want to look too far into detail.
"The season doesn't start for another two and a bit weeks. Things change throughout camp or preseason. Watch the line combinations switch as we play a couple of preseason games. They're going to look at everything in fine detail. That's why I'm not even going to worry about it. I'm going to go out and play and have fun and get used to playing some hockey again."
That was Monday, before Schenn went to Brooklyn for a split-squad game and scored a goal in the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Islanders.
And then Tuesday night, when the Flyers played the New York Rangers at home, Schenn was right, the line combinations changed.
With a few regulars getting the night off, Schenn played with Laughton and R.J. Umberger. Again, he found the back of the net.
Hakstol has said early on in his time here that versatility in a player is crucial. The Flyers have more than enough natural centers; Schenn is one of them moving to the wing. And in his case, as a lefthanded shot, the off-wing on the right side.
"We're trying to get a look at not just right wing. I think we're trying to get a look at how comfortable he is playing the wing," Hakstol said Monday. "To do that, I think it's fair to give a guy some consistency. Consistency is tough in camp. We're talking over a three- or four-day period. I've got to be careful in how I use that word, but that's one of the reasons why we've left things as static as we have."
All things considered, Schenn - who played in all 82 games in each of the last two seasons - is understanding of his role.
"I've said it before: I like center, obviously, but we've got a lot of centers here, and for me to be versatile is going to be key, and I think right wing," Schenn said. "It's just coming off the rush, you see more of the play. You've got more options. I didn't play a whole lot of it last year."
It'll be interesting to see the line combinations Hakstol uses the rest of camp. If the tandem of Umberger, Vincent Lecavalier and Sam Gagner sticks together, Schenn remains in the same weird spot. But, as he said, there's still time for everything to shake out.
When the Flyers acquired Schenn in the summer of 2011 in the Mike Richards trade with Los Angeles, many said he was the best player at the time not in the NHL. Now 24, he needs to show that level of play.
"I'm not going to say goals and points numbers, but I do think, yeah, there has to be another level," Schenn said. "I've gotten better year by year, and the points have gone up each year. At the same time, I just try to be that consistent, complete player that the Flyers want out of me. And I think I can be that consistently, so yeah, there is another level."
Schenn is in a contract year, as the bridge deal from his entry-level contract to his next one expires after this season. Sean Couturier was in a similar spot heading into this season, but was signed to a six-year extension.
"Obviously, you're motivated, going into a huge year like I am right now," Schenn said. "For me, it's . . . obviously I know about it, but don't worry about it too much. I've been through this process before. This time it's a little bit different."