Luke Schenn is back on his way to becoming an elite shutdown defender.
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Luke Schenn fifth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Schenn was coming off a great season with the Kelowna Rockets and stellar play for Canada at the World Juniors. A man among boys, Schenn earned the title "The Human Eraser" for his devastating hits and pugnacious play.
Instead of going fifth overall to the New York Islanders, the Leafs traded their ninth overall pick (Josh Bailey), and the 40th (Aaron Ness) overall pick for the fifth spot to acquire Schenn.
While getting drafted by a Canadian team was great for Schenn, the Leafs were a team in front office turmoil. Instead of playing another year of juniors, the Leafs elected to keep Schenn in the NHL.
After a great rookie year for an 18-year-old defenceman, Schenn followed that up with a year very similar to the first one. Unfortunately for Schenn, the Leafs got off to their worst start in history. Like all of the Leafs' defencemen, Schenn struggled from the gate.
After being the Leafs' golden boy the previous season, fans were angry that Schenn wasn't able to put the blue line on his shoulders and be the leader he was projected to be—granted it was only his second year in the league.
Schenn finished the year setting career highs in goals (five), points (17) and plus/minus (two). Though Schenn's play improved greatly under the tutelage of Dion Phaneuf, Schenn was a prominent figure in offseason trade speculation. A tad odd for someone who was compared to Dion Phaneuf and Adam Foote in his draft year.
In the summer, Schenn bulked up to 240 lbs.—adding more power to contain the larger NHL forwards. Another surprise is that Schenn has gone back to the simple and tenacious play that he was drafted for. Playing with Tomas Kaberle, Schenn seems to have found himself again.
Schenn is playing top-four minutes and is second on the Leafs for hits with 18. He is tied for second-most points among defencemen and is also tied for the second in plus/minus. Not bad for a 20-year-old defenceman entering his third season.
Schenn has the ability to be an elite shutdown defenceman. At 6'2" and 240 lbs., Schenn now has the size to control even the biggest NHL forwards. He has proven that he has the truculence, and is starting to put everything together.
For Leafs Nation, the fun is only beginning this season. With Kaberle across from him on the blue line and Phaneuf to tutor him, this season Luke Schenn will become the elite shutdown defenceman he was drafted to be.