Extended audition

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The Maple Leafs will announce their regular-season roster on Wednesday and almost certainly rookie defenceman Luke Schenn will be on it.

The Leafs can keep the 18-year-old defenceman in the blue and white for nine regular season games and still send him back to the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Once he has played his 10th game in the NHL, he can't go back to junior.

With that window, and the fact that the Leafs will be without veteran defenceman Jeff Finger for Thursday's regular-season opener in Detroit against the Red Wings, it's almost certain that Schenn will remain with the Leafs for at least a couple of weeks.

"That's a logical statement, (but) we have to get him signed first, then we'll sit down with the coaches, if not (today), then tomorrow, and make that decision," said Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher, who also will announce that the club has signed Schenn to an entry-level contract today.

The Leafs brass repeatedly has stated that Schenn will only stay with the club if he has performed well enough to be a top four or five defenceman. They don't want him sitting on the bench or logging time in the press box. But the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft has been one of the Leafs' best defenceman in the pre-season. The Saskatoon native has exceeded expectations in the seven pre-season games he has played, giving the Leafs strong work defensively and has been more than adequate with the puck.

HOPING TO STAY

For his part, Schenn is hoping to stay, but isn't taking anything for granted.

"I'll deal with that when the time comes, but for right now I'm focused on being here," he said, following Toronto's 5-4 shootout loss last night to the Columbus Blue Jackets. "I'm not to sure what to expect, but it has been awesome so far and I've gotten comfortable."

Schenn said the Leafs haven't tipped their hand as to whether he will stay or go, but he is comfortable playing against NHL opposition and would rather open the season in Detroit, rather than in Kelowna.

"You always have to think positive, you can't be thinking, 'Well I'm going to be sent back.' I've been keeping positive the whole time. But the final decision's not going to be up to me," Schenn said, adding that the adjustment to the NHL has been profound, but nothing he hasn't been able to handle.

"Going from junior to the NHL, you're playing with teenaged kids, 16-17 years old, to come here and play against men. Everyone's bigger and stronger and the pace is a lot quicker. That's the biggest adjustment I've seen so far. But there's no question that I've gained confidence as the time's gone on."


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