After Cliff Fletcher traded the Leafs' 7th overall pick -- along with conditional draft picks -- to the New York Islanders for their 5th overall selection, I had my suspicions he was after the highly coveted Russian sniper, Nikita Filatov. But nicer words were never spoken after the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Kelowna Rockets (OHL) defenseman, Luke Schenn.
In Schenn, the Leafs finally have a shut-down defender. Not known for offensive production, Schenn still knows his way around the offensive zone, scoring 7 goals and 28 points in 57 games for the Rockets last season. He also garnered an impressive 2 goals and 4 points in 7 playoff games. At 18 years old, he has incredible upside to be an elite shut-down defenseman and at 6'2, 210lbs he has the size to back it up. His huge hits are what earned him the nickname "The Human Eraser" by TSN and NBC color commentator, Pierre McGuire. He is also a leader, serving as an assistant captain with the Rockets. To go along with his mean streak and aggressive play, Schenn is not afraid to throw the fisticuffs and defend his teammates.
The 07-08 campaign was an impressive one for Schenn, joining as a member of Team Canada at the Canada-Russia Super Series and also a member of the gold medal winning Canadian squad at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Schenn finished the tournament with a team high +/- of +5, standing as one of the teams' best players -- despite his 0 points.
As I stated earlier, Schenn is not particularly known for his offensive production, but many believe it is an underrated facet to his game, one that will grow with his maturity as a hockey player. Rockets' assistant GM and director of player personnel, Lorne Frey, had this to say of his passing abilities: "We really liked his passing, as a young guy he was just a great passer of the puck. We could see he had some smarts through his ability to make plays… We knew he was an excellent young guy who made very good decisions with the puck." Schenn has made it clear that he has intentions on rounding off all of his game, trying to deliver the whole package "There are certainly many different types of defensemen and I hear people say they think I'm a shut down defenseman. I enjoy playing on the power play, too. I'm gonna work to become a more complete guy, so for now it's important to work hard on all parts of my game."
Despite the questionable decisions the Leafs have done over the years, it appears they are finally coming around, leaving Leafs fans with something to finally smile about. And if reports around the NHL are true that Mats Sundin is leaving the Leafs, then I fully expect a very youth orientated team next season. Not only would this do wonders for the youngsters' development, but it would more than likely land the Leafs in a great drafting position. Will it be John Tavares great? Time will tell, but falling into a position to grab Luke Schenn's brother, Brayden Schenn, is certainly possible. His current play suggests he'll be drafted in the top 5 at year’s draft. While he is not a defender, he serves as a great center for the Brandon Wheat Kings (OHL), posting an impressive 28 goals and 71 points in 66 games last season. At 17 years old he's not exactly a small kid either, standing at 6'0 tall and weighing in at 195 pounds. There's a strong indication he will follow the footsteps of his older brother when it comes to character as well, displaying strong leadership abilities to be among the team leaders.
If the Leafs follow their youth movement -- and it appears rather encouraging after tonight --they may very well find themselves with the opportunity to select Brayden.
Let's hope this is only the first page of the Leafs' newly designed future.