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Schenn's virtual reality soon will be realized

by Aaron Bell

Kelowna Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn patterns his game after Calgary Flames stalwart Robyn Regehr and loves to play a robust style.
Luke Schenn already has watched it happen.

He suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing the point alongside Sergei Gonchar. Schenn scooped the puck up in his own end and slid it up the wall to Sidney Crosby, who took it in and scored to put the Penguins up by a goal.

Schenn, an 18-year-old defenseman with the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League, isn't daydreaming. He plays as the Penguins regularly in the NHL 08 game on his new X-Box 360.

"NHL 08 is huge," Schenn told Rockets' broadcaster Regan Bartel on AM 1150 in Kelowna. Schenn put himself into the Penguins' lineup for season play in the popular game. "I spend a lot of nights doing that. When we get back from
school, it's pretty fun to play with the guys."

Schenn may not be that far away from performing the feat in real life. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman is a blue-chip prospect for this summer's NHL Entry Draft.

He is solid in all three zones and already has some of the characteristics of a pro defenseman.

"We rely on Luke in all of our key situations in our own zone," said Rockets coach Ryan Huska, who played four seasons with the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL before a pro stint in the Chicago Blackhawks' system. "He's the guy that we look to settle things down and to play with composure. He's very good at staying composed and not panicking under pressure. I think that has led him to gain a lot of notoriety right now for being one of the better defensemen in our league."

Schenn patterns his game after Calgary Flames stalwart Robyn Regehr and loves to play a robust style.

"He is a physical defenseman," Huska said about his alternate captain. "He likes to make sure that he finishes his checks and finishes checks hard and he also doesn't mind getting in the odd fight. Sometimes that's not what you want out of a guy that you expect to log a lot of minutes like Luke does, but he enjoys that side of the game. He plays physical and he's at his best when he is physical and making opponents aware of when he's on the ice."

Schenn also has added to his offensive contributions with the Rockets this season. He scored 11 points as a rookie in 2005-06 and then 29 last season. After starting the season with just four points in his first 14 games, Schenn has become a point-per-game player during the past eight contests.

"Over the last little while, he's gained a lot of confidence with the puck," Huska said. "He's feeling like he can hold onto the puck and make plays and he's doing a much better job of getting his shots through on net. I think that's one of the reasons why we've seen his point totals increase over the last little while."

Schenn is looking forward to getting back to Kelowna for some home cooking. After playing nine of their past 11 games on the road – including seven straight – the Rockets are looking forward to a four-game homestand starting this weekend.

Schenn, the Rockets’ first-round pick in 2004, is staying with the same billet family that Nashville Predators defender Shea Weber stayed with during his three seasons with the Rockets. Schenn was called up for the final few games of the 2004-05 season and spent time with Weber on and off the ice, learning about playing in the WHL.

"It was kind of a treat to do that," said Schenn, who scored his first career goal while playing in his hometown against the Saskatoon Blades in 2005. "We (send) text (messages) back and forth here and there. He's a really good guy and he treats me awesome. It's kind of nice if I need help to be able to ask him a question here and there. He's a really good guy like that."

Schenn also has followed in Weber's path to the international game. He helped Canada win the gold medal at the Under-18 World Championship in 2006 and skated with Canada in their sweep of Russia in the Canada-Russia Super Series this past summer. He said he enjoys getting to know the other elite players that he usually competes against in league play.

Schenn was rated fourth in the WHL in the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Draft Rankings that were released last week.

"I met some of the guys in the past playing in these types of events and I'm looking forward to meeting new guys and playing with them," Schenn said. "You get to know them from a different side. You always usually just play against them but they're always usually good guys and I still keep in contact with a lot of them. They're definitely good guys to meet and it's good to make friends around the league."

Schenn will suit up in the WHL games for the Canadian Hockey League's ADT Canada-Russia Challenge later this month and hopes to get a chance to represent his country at the World Junior Championships this Christmas.

"It's a goal of mine, but it's a goal of a lot of guys out there," Schenn said. "I'm a Canadian hockey player and a junior and you always watch them growing up and you always dream of putting on that jersey one day and representing your country. For everyone that plays hockey, you want to do that for sure."

Schenn was rated fourth in the WHL in the NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Draft Rankings that were released last week. Kyle Beach of the Everett Silvertips was No. 1, while Schenn's teammate, Tyler Myers, was second and Colten Teubert of the Regina Pats was third.

Schenn isn't putting too much stock into the ratings yet, and wants to make sure his play continues to get better as draft day gets closer.

"You can't worry about next summer right now, you just have to worry about the games that are going on right now," Schenn said. "Obviously they are going to be people watching you every night. It's a long ways away and you just have to keep on focusing on getting better and making strides throughout the season. You've got to pretty much just worry about playing hockey and having a good year."

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