GLENDALE – Luke Schenn played his first NHL game nearly a month before his 19th birthday. Now, at age 26 and with 566 games on his resume, he’s hoping playing for the Coyotes will help him evolve as a defenseman.
“It’s been a big learning curve,” Schenn said Saturday, just a few hours after he signed a two-year contract with Arizona. “You go through some up-and-down times. I’ve been fortunate to have played as long as I have and get as many games, but I still feel like I’m young and got lots to improve on and lots to learn. That’s what I’m looking forward to about Arizona … I’ve got some experience, but at the same time I still feel like I’m a young enough guy where I don’t know if I’ve reached my full potential yet. I think there’s still a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to working with the whole coaching staff there and all the players.”
|Luke Schenn delivers a hit to Dylan Larkin. Photo by Getty Images. |
Schenn, picked fifth overall by Toronto at the 2008 NHL Draft, is excited to play with the up-and-coming Coyotes and away from the media spotlights in which he played in Toronto and then in Philadelphia.
“I’m looking forward to coming to a market where I can just worry about playing hockey and not outside added pressure, and hopefully growing with the team,” Schenn said. “I know they have a lot of upside and I still feel like I’ve hopefully got some upside, too. (I’m) still at a good age where I can continue to grow with them and evolve.”
With Niklas Grossmann no longer on board, the Coyotes needed to add a physical player to the back end, and Schenn fits the bill. He ranked 15th in the NHL last season with 234 hits in 72 games. That’s 3.3 per game and 56 more than defenseman Klas Dahlbeck – who led Arizona in hits – delivered in 71 games last season. Since entering the League in 2008-09, Schenn has totaled 1,775 hits, second only to Brooks Orpik (1,788) during that time span.
“They’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot the puck and move the puck well and (who’ve) got a good offensive instinct for the game, so I just want to try to play solid defensively and help out in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill and play physical,” Schenn said. “Obviously, the way the game is now there’s a lot of skating so you’ve definitely got to pick your spots to be physical, but I still think there’s definitely still a need for that.”
A right-handed shot, Schenn has notched 28 goals and 100 assists in the League.
General Manager John Chayka said the organization likes many aspects of Schenn’s game.
“He's an interesting guy,” Chayka said. “Everyone wants to focus on the negatives of his game rather than the positives. There are a lot of segments in his career where he was very impactful … He’s a physical player that separates the man from the puck and makes plays in the areas of the ice that we want to make plays, (and) he’s been an effective penalty killer throughout his career. That’s another area that we needed to address.”
Arizona ranked 28th in the NHL in penalty killing (77.3 percent) last season.
Chayka said Associate Coach Jim Playfair and Skating Coach Dawn Braid would work closely with Schenn, who stands 6-foot-2, 229 pounds.
|Luke Schenn. Photo by Getty Images. |
“I have faith in Jimmy and our developmental staff to get him back to where he was before in his career: a physical, impactful player who can make a good first pass and add to our back end,” Chayka said. “We hope to take what was certainly a promising career early on, one that has a lot of years left in it, and make this a good fit.”
Schenn said he’s eager to work on improving his skating.
“It's gotten so much faster, and you have to constantly be skating because there are so many more skilled, quick players that are dangerous,” Schenn said. “It's a part of my game I want to enhance.”
Playing 43 games for Los Angeles last season, Schenn got a taste of the Western Conference and the Pacific Division. It was a nice change.
“It's a different style of game, a lot of bigger bodies but a ton of skilled guys, too,” Schenn said. “I enjoyed it personally. The Pacific Division is one of the most competitive, if not the most competitive division, in the League.”
Schenn will come to training camp having played with current Coyotes Shane Doan, Mike Smith and Antoine Vermette for Team Canada at various IIHF World Championships. He also knows new forward Ryan White from their days with Philadelphia.
Schenn, White, Alex Goligoski, Jamie McGinn and Anthony DeAngelo all will be newcomers together when the Coyotes open training camp in mid-September. And Chayka said more fresh faces could be joining the mix soon.
“We want to be known as an organization where players want to come here to improve their games,” Chayka said. “We think we can put players in the right environment and in the right culture and the right system, and we want to be a destination for players that are trying to grow their games, improve their game and get their games to the next level.”
He added, “We have lots of options. I don't think we're happy with where our overall group is, both forwards and defense. We're looking to improve and we have some depth to offer. There is still a lot to be played out in the market and we're going to continue to be active.”