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Training Camp

Luke Schenn adds missing elements to Coyotes

Defenseman brings toughness, grit, NHL experience to unit in need of all three

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- So where does Arizona Coyotes defenseman Luke Schenn fit in this season?

Is Schenn, 26, part of a young defense that can be counted on to end a four-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Or with 566 games of NHL experience, is he part of the veteran core asked to add leadership and experience to the mix?

Schenn would like to think he can be a little of each.

"I'm kind of a hybrid," said Schenn, who signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes on July 23. "I don't see myself as old. But sometimes I'm perceived that way because I'm going into my ninth year. I'm still 26. It feels like just yesterday when I was a young guy trying to find my way and break into the NHL.

"I have a lot of games under my belt but I don't think I've reached the level of player I can be."

Wherever Schenn gets slotted, one thing is certain: If he adds grit and toughness to the Coyotes defense and helps everyone else do what they do best, his fourth NHL stop might provide the permanent home he's been looking for.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka believes his players were overpowered physically at times last season. As a response the Coyotes signed power forward Jamie McGinn and Schenn, who at 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds can match the size and strength of some of the big forwards in the Pacific Division.

Video: Luke Schenn on 5-3 preseason win

Schenn was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (No. 5) of the 2008 NHL Draft and earned an NHL spot in training camp. Since 2008-09, Schenn's 1,775 hits are second among defensemen to Brooks Orpik of the Washington Capitals (1,788). He had 234 hits in in 72 games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings last season, fifth in the League among defensemen and 56 more than Arizona's leading defenseman, Klas Dahlbeck.

For a team that ranked 28th in the League last season with a penalty kill of 77.3 percent, Schenn's reliability in shorthanded situations also is a plus.

Another advantage for Schenn in Arizona is being out of a prime hockey market. Any shortcomings in his game were magnified and drew criticism during his previous stops in Toronto and Philadelphia.

"Here, Luke comes to an environment with a little less media attention," associate coach Jim Playfair said. "Talking to the people who have been around him, he's a great competitor and team player. We want him to find his comfort zone and become a real hard defender for us. That's one thing we lacked last year at points in time. [We were] a little too easy to play against in the corners and in front of our net.

"He's a real solid player and he has an identity we can still work on and establish a little more meanness and a little more structure. We are looking forward to him being a big part of this thing."

Schenn saw a lot of the Coyotes after he was traded to the Kings by the Flyers last season; he said he was impressed with the speed and skill of the young players. With offensive-minded defensemen such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski and Michael Stone, he also saw room for a player with his style.

"We've got a lot of guys who can shoot the puck and move the puck well with a good offensive instinct for the game," Schenn said. "I just want to try to play solid defensively and play physical. 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."

The Coyotes have better depth on defense, but they still have questions. Stone is recovering from knee surgery in April and Kevin Connauton was unable to start training camp because of a lower-body injury. There are minutes to be earned for a player like Schenn.

"I think in Philadelphia [last season], we had nine or 10 defensemen on one-way deals with up-and-coming prospects knocking at the door," he said. "Every year is a competition. It pushes everyone to be better. But at the same time, you don't want to get caught looking around at numbers and trying to play coach or GM and figure out pairings or combinations. You worry about yourself and the rest falls into place."

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