Schenn impresses Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Those in charge of the Maple Leafs prospect camp weren't told to bag-skate Luke Schenn and Nikolai Kulemin, force them to prepare and serve creme brulee in cooking class or find their way home alone at 2 a.m. from Toronto Island.

But the two players can expect extra scrutiny from the team brass watching the workouts this week at Lakeshore Lions Arena and have their attention span closely monitored during off-ice seminars.

Schenn, the team's highest drafted defenceman in a quarter century, is wearing No. 2, while the other 23 players are assigned the usual jumble of football linemen digits. The 18 year old might eventually be judged not ready when the more competitive rookie camp and main camp convene in a couple of months, but yesterday was the first time the club had a look at its prized pick on skates. There's no denying he has a presence.

WATCHING CLOSELY

"We're watching how he absorbs what we're doing here, how he responds and what his body language tells us," said Leafs' player development coach Paul Dennis, as development director Dallas Eakins ran the workouts. "We're not doing anything by design with Luke and Nikolai, that's different from the others, but you can tell Luke already has some advantages (from being in the world junior championships). He's ahead of the curve."

The 6-foot-3 Schenn, nicknamed the Human Eraser, isn't required to live up to that monicker this week. His biggest bang yesterday was an accidental board meeting with forward Matt Frattin during a 3-on-3 scrimmage that closed the 90-minute drills.

"(Making the team in October) is just talk right now," Saskatoon native Schenn said later. "I was off skates for a few weeks before today and my legs were feeling it by the end.

"We'll see what happens. It was really an experience to come through Toronto for the first time. I've been to see NHL games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, but this is pretty cool."

The Russian Kulemin still is working on his English, but he had no trouble understanding general manager Cliff Fletcher when the latter told the second-round pick from 2006 that he'd come to North America with a guaranteed spot on the Leafs, not the farm team Marlies.

"I knew my first time on the ice today was going to be difficult after being away," said Kulemin, who can play either wing, but prefers the right.

The 21-year-old comes with an endorsement from his former Magnitogorsk linemate Evgeny Malkin.

"He told me the NHL was the best league in the world to play in," Kulemin said, aware of the popularity the Russian Super League is gaining, especially with Jaromir Jagr joining the Omsk club last week.

Kulemin had 21 goals and 33 points in the RSL and was one of three finalists for its playoff MVP.

As part of this week's assessments, Schenn, Kulemin and the Leafs will be on the ice and taking a variety of classes from nutrition to media relations to the business of sport.

"It's more important than ever with the modern lifestyle," Dennis said. "In a sense they're the same as individual businessmen."

Fletcher said this camp would have no bearing on anyone's status in the autumn.

"It's strictly for orientation, but it does give us a chance to meet a lot of our new draft picks, some of whom play at American universities."


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