With the Mats Sundin era in Toronto potentially coming to an end in the coming weeks, the Luke Schenn years officially started last night.
Desperately seeking to land one of the four blue-chip defencemen at the top of the 2008 draft, Maple Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher traded with the New York Islanders for the No. 5 spot to land Schenn, a rugged stay-at-home defenceman who's been compared to Adam Foote.
As an overwhelmed Schenn walked up to the podium where a blue Leafs jersey awaited him, he was greeted by deafening boos by the anti-Toronto throng shoehorned into Scotiabank Place.
"I didn't hear them," the Saskatoon native admitted afterward, obviously impervious to his initiation into the Leafs-Ottawa Senators rivalry. "I was way too excited.
"This is so cool to be a Leaf. Even out West, you always see them on TV, they always are in the newspapers. It's just amazing."
Scouts feel Schenn, who has the reputation of being a shutdown blueliner, can step into the lineup right away, although the former Kelowna Rocket wasn't making any promises to that end.
"I'm just going to go to camp in September and do my best," he said.
Fletcher got a look at Schenn during a scouting trip for the WHL playoffs.
"One thing I saw at that time was his leadership skills," Fletcher said. "He was impressive. He is a shutdown guy who likes to play physical. He doesn't make a lot of end- to-end rushes but he makes a great first pass and has a good shot from the point."
Entering the draft with the seventh overall pick, Fletcher knew the Fab Four defencemen -- Schenn, Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Alex Pietrangelo -- likely would be gone by the time the Leafs were on the clock.
Sure enough, when the other three went 2-3-4 behind Steven Stamkos, Fletcher had to act. Along with their No. 7 pick, the Leafs gave the Isles a choice: Take the 60th overall pick this year and a third-rounder in 2009; or the 68th overall selection this year and a second-rounder in '09. The Islanders will have to make that decision today.
Asked if he gave up too much, Fletcher said: "It's worth it when you want quality."
Schenn, 18, helped Team Canada win gold at the 2008 world junior championship and represented Canada in the eight-game sweep of Russia in the Canada-Russia Super Series in 2007.