Schenn will play for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
I'm as sure of this as I am that Carlo Calaiacovo will get injured. While there is an abundance of defensemen competing for the two available positions (Kaberle, Kubina, Finger and Frogren will form the Leafs' top 4), Schenn will, at some point, stand-out from the majority of the group. Whether it's in training camp or mid-way through the season, as soon he joins the team he'll stay there for the remainder.
Before Schenn arrived, Anton Stralman was the Leafs' best defensive prospect. Now, however, things have changed. While Stralman is still shaping up to be a premium offensive defenseman, the Leafs haven't had a franchise caliber defender in quite some time.
I get the feeling that Fletcher, despite his claim that Schenn will have to "overwhelm", is going to have a tough time not including the six-foot-three, 215-pound Saskatoon native to the line-up. Schenn brings elements to the table that is comparable to the Canadiens' Mike Komisarek. He's mean, hits hard, clears the front of the net, and uses his huge frame to its fullest. While the Leafs have displayed solid defensemen in these past few years of mediocrity, Schenn's character, poise and style of play is exactly what they've been lacking. Not to mention someone on the blueline who is feared on the ice, making offenders think twice before crashing the net.
An aspect of Schenn's game that is overlooked are his offensive abilities. Schenn has progressively gotten better in the WHL, garnering a better PPG each season:
2005-06 WHL Season Kelowna Rockets 60 3 8 11 1 86
2006-07 WHL Season Kelowna Rockets 72 2 27 29 -10 139
2007-08 Regular Season Kelowna Rockets 57 7 21 28 5 100
If you look at his '07-08 season, he played 15 fewer games, scored one less point, but scored 5 more goals compared to his '06-07 campaign.
Schenn was dynamite in the WJC as well, being touted as the team's MVP by some. While he registered no points, his defensive play was exceptional (finished with a team-high +5 rating), showing why many scouts are projecting him as an "all-star defenseman".
When Schenn finds his way to the Leafs, placing him on the 2nd PP unit would be beneficial to his offensive development, and it wouldn't add to much pressure to the 18-year-old.
Looking at the Leafs' defensive core next season, it's not unrealistic for Schenn to find a prominent role with the club. While the Leafs have many defensemen at their disposal, the skill level is not exactly top notch, so if Schenn can find his groove in the NHL, he can place himself as the No.5 or No.6 defenseman. He won't have a lot of ice-time, but considering Fletcher doesn't want to rush him (that method hasn't proved successful for the Leafs), it would be logical to gradually merge him to the top 4. Another thing to consider is that the pressure on the Leafs is as low as ever this season - many fans are gunning for John Tavares - so Schenn shouldn't feel overwhelmed by the usual pressure that resides with Leafs Nation.
While I would enjoy nothing more than seeing him play all 82 games in the NHL, a more realistic scenario would see him joining the club in relief of injuries. If he plays to his level, it'll be difficult for Fletcher to send a player of his repertoire back down.
It will be an interesting story to follow this season, and for this particular Leafs fan, I think it'll end well.
What do you folks think?
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