Schenn blends in in Leafs debut

STEVE BUFFERY

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Luke Schenn was a cool hand for the Leafs rookies last night at the Memorial Auditorium, but the club's first pick in this year's draft could not lift his team to victory.

In his first game donning the blue and white, the strapping defenceman played a strong, if unspectacular game, in a 5-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a three-team NHL rookie tournament. Ottawa is also taking part.

"It was unbelievable. It kind of felt surreal throwing on that jersey," Schenn said. "It wasn't my A-game. But it was the first one and I know I'll get better."

Schenn was a force defensively and moved the puck out of his end well. He logged a ton of ice time, but did nothing to garner any superlatives.

In order to earn a spot with the big club this year, the Kelowna Rockets star will have to shine in the final two games at this tournament, and at the Leafs' main training camp next weekend at Ricoh Coliseum.

"To me, he was average," said Dallas Eakins, the Leafs' director of player development and head coach at this tournament. "The kid is definitely going to feel the weight of coming into this market. I know he wants to do well and I know he will do well. But he got his feet wet (last night) and he played okay. It was a good start for him."

Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher said that Schenn, 19, has to "overwhelm" the team brass to get a shot at starting with the NHL team.

BLUE-LINE FIGHT

"He looks like a hockey player out there," Fletcher said last night. "But we'll have to wait and see him with the big boys."

As it is, there will be a significant fight for two or three spots on defence at the Leafs training camp, with nine players with a legitimate chance to make the starting core of defencemen -- Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn, Carlo Colaiacovo, Anton Stralman, Jonas Frogren, Ian White and Staffan Kronwall.

Kaberle, Kubina, Finger and Van Ryn, if he is healthy, are givens.

Schenn, big and physical and considered a shut-down defender, is also underrated offensively. This past season, Schenn, 19, was a member of the gold-medal winning Canadian squad at the 2008 world junior championship.


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