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Schenn a big part of Leafs' long-term plans

Thursday, 06.25.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Hearing Toronto President and General Manager Brian Burke say he's maybe the only untouchable player the Maple Leafs have right now is refreshing for rookie defenseman Luke Schenn. That doesn't mean the young blueliner has to believe it -- in fact, he'd rather not because the less comfortable he feels, the better he is.

"I don't think anyone is untouchable unless you're (Alex) Ovechkin or someone like that," Schenn told NHL.com. "I guess it's nice to know that they do believe in you and think you can help the organization down the road. We have a long ways to go, me personally and as a team, but it's nice for him to say that they are including me in their future plans."

Schenn clearly is too shy to say what everybody already knows: Not only is he in the Leafs' future plans, he's potentially a cornerstone defenseman for the next decade or longer.

Schenn made one heck of a first impression in a rebuilding season for the Leafs. He was a mainstay on Toronto's blue line all season, averaging 21:32 of ice time in 70 games. He wasn't a point producer (only 14), but Schenn knows he's never going to play like Scott Niedermayer.

He's a true stay-at-home defender who may develop offensive instincts along the way, but this season you can safely say the Leafs got more than they bargained for from the 19-year-old Saskatoon native who wasn't guaranteed a roster spot in training camp, but earned one.

"You don't put people on your team because you're worried about five or six years from now," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said earlier this season. "That's backward thinking. I said if he were a top-four defenseman on our team than he would play. He's definitely in our top four."

Schenn earned an NHL job by playing with confidence all season. He said he never was intimidated by playing against older players that he grew up watching.

"If you play the game being intimidated or scared you will not play the way you're capable of playing," he said. "You can never be intimidated."

He gained that confidence by making the squad out of training camp. His confidence grew exponentially after Schenn was told he was staying in Toronto instead of returning to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

"The coaches gave me a great opportunity to play and prove I belong," Schenn said. "I was more and more comfortable and my confidence grew with the opportunity."

This summer presents another opportunity for Schenn.

While fellow young defenseman Zach Bogosian said he's hoping for a quiet summer back home in Massena, N.Y., Schenn doesn't envision the same, even though he's home in Saskatoon for the first time since August.

For one, he's going to be with his family, following younger brother Brayden, who is one of the top draft-eligible prospects. Brayden Schenn is going through the same process Luke went through last season.

"It doesn't slow down for my family," Schenn said. "It's going to be a whirlwind for my brother. He's going to have it all coming. It's not going to slow down for our family. We'll be following him around instead of me. It's going to be exciting."

Luke said he's going to be more excited heading to this year's Entry Draft in Montreal than he was for himself last year in Ottawa.

"I don't think anyone is untouchable unless you're (Alex) Ovechkin or someone like that. I guess it's nice to know that they do believe in you and think you can help the organization down the road."
-- Luke Schenn

"A lot of it determines where you will hopefully end up and spend the next years of your life, but I'm not nervous for Brayden at all," Schenn said. "I'm more excited. He's doing well now, but he's like me -- we want to do better."

And if Brayden winds up getting picked by the Leafs?

"That would be a bonus, for sure," Luke said. "At the end of the day, his goal is to make the NHL just like any kid. But if he were to come to the Leafs it would be unbelievable."

While following Brayden, Luke obviously will be working on his own game. He'd like to improve his speed.

"I think there are a lot of things you work on, like skating and quickness and maybe having a little more jump in your step," Schenn said. "You can never be satisfied with where you are at. There is not one thing in particular that I'd like to work on."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com