On Draft Day ‘08, the Toronto Maple Leafs made the bold move of trading up from the 7th selection to grab Kelowna Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn 5th overall.
Leaf fans have been waiting a long, long time for a young franchise calibre to fall into their lap, and they may finally have found one in Luke. Heading into the draft weekend, Schenn had the presitigious honor of being lumped together into the group of elite four defensemen, who along with Stamkos, highlighted the top of this year’s draft class. Luke was proclaimed the most NHL ready and defensively sound blueliner among the group, but his supposed lack of an offensive game has caused some fans to label him as nothing more than a defensive stay-at-home defenseman.
First of all, Luke is more than a “reliable” defenseman. The “Human Eraser” is an absolute game breaker defensively, because he’s very smart with the puck, hits like a truck, and is rock soild in his own end. In fact, Mckeen’s Draft Guide publisher had to this to say about Luke:
“Luke Schenn might have been one of the best defensive prospects perhaps in the last 20 years. He is the kind of guy to build your defense around.”
Not bad. But what about his offensive game? Well, let’s take a closer look at that shall we?
When thinking of big, physical, elite young WHL defenders, two names spring to mind: Nashville’s Shea Weber and Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf.
Phaneuf is a perennial Norris candidate and 50-60 point getter.
Weber is an emerging young star who posted 40 points in his 2nd NHL season, and will be in the Norris discusssion for many years to come.
So how does Schenn match up against these two elite young blueliners? Let’s do some junior stat crunching:
Player A: (0 points in 5 GP)
Player B: 0.18 PPG
Player C: 0.25 PPG
Player A: 0.26 PPG
Player B: 0.40 PPG
Player C: 0.42 PPG
Player A: 0.53 PPG
Player B: 0.49 PPG
Player C: 0.69 PPG
Now before we do any judging, it’s important to point out two things:
#1 - Players A and C were born before the September cutoff date, and so were drafted after their age 17 seasons while Player B was born after that date, so he was drafted after his age 18 season.
#2 - Player C, who has seemingly broken out way ahead of the other two, is roughly 7 months older than Player B and 5 months older than Player A. This is important because it means that Player A played his 0.53 PPG season at age 18, Player B played his 0.49 PPG season at age 18, and Player C played his 0.42 PPG season at about age 17.5.
All things considered, all three players are pretty comparable, with Players A and B having nearly identical stats. In case you haven’t figured it out yet:
Player A is Shea Weber.
Player B is Luke Schenn.
Player C is Dion Phaneuf.
Now while Phaneuf is likely one offensive class above Schenn, Luke and Shea are very, very comparable statistically. Thus it should be of no surprise that many of the WHL scouts, and Rockets coaches (Weber and Schenn both played for Kelowna) have drawn comparisons offensively between the two. Both are large bodied, hardnosed defenders that skate very well, display poise and confidence with the puck, but don’t like to carry it a whole lot. Both have the ability to make quick, accurate outlet passes, and possess booming point shots.
So what does that mean? It means that it is a very flattering comparison for Schenn, because Weber is a fantastic young player.
While Schen still has a lot of work ahead of him to live up to his comparison, like matching Weber’s 0.74 PPG age 19 season, there is certainly some justifiable hope that he can develop into an all-around elite defender.
Like Weber, I feel that Schenn has the potential to touch 40-45 points at the NHL level, which Shea did in just his 2nd NHL season. Toss in the fact that we may have just landed the best “defensive” prospect of the last 2 decades, and you should have the makings of a future perennial all-star and top 5-10 defenseman in the NHL.
Luke Schenn one-dimensional? I think not.
It’s been a pleasure,
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