TORONTO - Luke Schenn seems to have the right answer for every test he faces.
Even though the 18-year-old defenceman has never taken a shootout attempt in the Western Hockey League, he came up big Monday by scoring the shootout winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-3 pre-season victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Schenn thought coach Ron Wilson was joking when he was told that he'd be taking the fourth Toronto shot if it was necessary. It turned out to be no laughing matter and Schenn seized his moment in the spotlight by beating Manny Legace with a nice backhand deke.
"Never did I ever think I would be in a shootout," he said. "But I got called upon and I was lucky to score."
Modesty aside, he had a good reason to be surprised.
The Kelowna Rockets were more inclined to let their equipment manager take a shootout attempt over the past couple seasons than call on Schenn to go. His game is built on solid defensive play, as evidenced by the fact he's never scored more than seven goals in a WHL season.
"I've never shot in my life," said Schenn. "They've gone like 10 shooters and I've never shot."
That changed Monday because Wilson wanted to send a right-handed shooter in against Legace and Schenn had performed well in a breakaway drill during practice.
The coach was obviously pleased with the result.
"It's how the funny fickle finger of fate works and good for him," said Wilson.
Niklas Hagman, with two, and Alex Steen scored in regulation for Toronto (2-2-1).
Brad Boyes, David Backes and Andy McDonald replied for the Blues (2-2-1).
The natural question lingering on the minds of Leaf fans is whether Schenn has a realistic opportunity to crack the lineup this season. The recent first-round draft pick certainly entered training camp as a longshot, but he's made it hard on the NHL team to send him back to junior with his performance so far.
In addition to his shootout winner against the Blues, Schenn was a plus-3 with three blocked shots during 20 minutes of ice time.
"He made some great long outlet passes," said Wilson. "He had the advantage of playing with a veteran like (Tomas) Kaberle all night but he hasn't looked out of place yet.
"Certainly physically he's strong enough - he manhandled Keith Tkachuk at the end of the second period. I haven't seen him get beat 1-on-1."
The Maple Leafs have four pre-season games left, starting with a rematch against the Blues in St. Louis on Wednesday. After that, they play Detroit back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.
Schenn will continue to be watched closely as the regular season inches closer.
"As you keep going a little bit farther (into pre-season), the lineups keep getting a little bit better," said Wilson. "I think the true test for him will be next weekend when we play the Red Wings. We'll see."
The game ended much better than it started.
There was very little energy in the Air Canada Centre during the first two periods of a matchup between a pair teams not expected to win many games this season. The building came alive in the third period as each team scored twice to set up overtime.
The fans have been a little slow to embrace Schenn to this point but they chanted "Luuukkkee" when he was announced during the shootout.
"Is that what they were saying? I didn't know if they were booing me or what," he said. "It was definitely nice."
No matter what happens in the coming week, Schenn will take at least one souvenir away from his pro training camp. Backup goaltender Curtis Joseph stopped by his locker after the game and dropped off the puck he used to score the shootout winner against Legace.
While he clearly wants to play in the NHL this season, Schenn is trying not to focus too closely on that goal.
"I don't want to think too far ahead," he said. "I'm just (trying to) keep getting better here. I'm learning from all the veteran players. I'm feeling more and more comfortable every day."
Notes: Former Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson, now San Jose's director of pro scouting, attended the game ... Earlier in the day, Toronto assigned seven players to the AHL Marlies - including Bates Battaglia, Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus. ... Matt Stajan, Jason Blake, Ryan Hollweg, Dominic Moore and Jeff Finger sat out for the Leafs. ... Yan Stastny, Andy Wozniewski, Steve Wagner and David Perron didn't play for St. Louis. ... The Blues will play a rare afternoon game at Air Canada Centre when they visit the Maple Leafs on Oct. 13.