Vancouver Province article (D-man off to Schenn-sational start)November 9 2008 at 2:41 PM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
D-man off to Schenn-sational start
Former Kelowna Rocket fitting in nicely in T.O.
Published: Sunday, November 09, 2008
In this town, they're already using Luke Schenn's name in the same sentence as that of Tim Horton. And not in regards to a chocolate glazed.
Schenn, the Maple Leafs rookie defenceman who turned 19 last Sunday, is seen by many as the future of the Toronto blueline, a player who reminds at least some of the late, physical Hall of Fame rearguard who won four Stanley Cups and co-founded the coffee- and-cruller empire.
A little early for such comparisons, surely, but Leafs fans -- and management -- are very sweet on the kid.
"My goal from the start of training camp was to learn a lot from the other guys and the coaches and just keep getting better every day," Schenn said before Saturday night's Maple Leafs-Canadiens game.
"As long as I did that, I'd give myself the best chance to make it."
Indeed, Schenn simply played too well in camp to be returned to the Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets, where he had 12 goals and 56 assists with a bruising 325 penalty minutes the past three seasons.
He's already shown that feisty side in the NHL, bravely duking it out with Ottawa heavyweight Chris Neil on Oct. 25 after the latter had kneed Toronto's Matt Stajan.
Toronto drafted Schenn fifth overall last June, their highest selection since Scott Thornton went third in 1989, impressed by his mettle and leadership. The Leafs sent their first-, second- and third-round picks to the New York Islanders to move up in the draft, then gave Schenn, a native of Saskatoon, the chance to make their club this fall.
Think you've heard this story before? Then you've read Scott Young's 1950s young-readers classic A Boy At The Leafs Camp, in which Winnipeg defenceman Bill Spunska, 18 1/2, successfully springboards from junior to the NHL.
"They've given me a great opportunity, and I'm pretty thankful for that," Schenn said. "I've become more confident and comfortable because of the chance, and over time they've put me in some key situations."
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson says he's not shocked by the progression of the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder who's being used among Toronto's top four defencemen.
Before Saturday night's game, Schenn was averaging a healthy 21:18 per game, had two assists, was minus-2 and had 17 penalty minutes.
"Once you get to know him, you see how mature he is," Wilson said. "Physically, he's big enough to play in our league. And emotionally, he's ready. I think sending him back (to Kelowna) would have stunted his growth a little bit. He's at a point now where he has to play with men."
Schenn is beefier than he was when he arrived in camp, having added six pounds of muscle by working out and eating right. Wilson hopes he'll add another 15 by season's end.
He's been paired roughly half the time with Tomas Kaberle, the rest with Jeff Finger and Mike Van Ryn, riding a steep learning curve without having missed a stride.
"There's definitely learning to do, but I'm trying to pick up on the little things," Schenn said. "Whether it's practice or a game, I'm sure you could ask the best players in the league and they'd tell you they're still learning, too."
Schenn has been living in a hotel until now, but last week was given the green light to get himself an apartment, the NHL's way of telling a player he's up for good.
Will he become another Tim Horton for Toronto? This city is betting dollars to doughnuts that he will.
© The Vancouver Province 2008
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