Schenn cracks roster

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Rookie defenceman Luke Schenn won't be going anywhere, except perhaps condo hunting.

Maple Leafs general Cliff Fletcher confirmed yesterday that the 18-year-old will begin the season with Toronto and will stick around for at least nine regular-season games, when the decision whether to send him back to junior will be made.

The Leafs open the regular season Thursday in Detroit.

Schenn, the club's first-round selection (fifth overall) in this year's NHL entry draft, has played extremely well in six pre-season games. He is a plus five and often has been the club's best defenceman.

"I think he's played very well and he deserves the chance," said Fletcher, adding he'll have Schenn signed to an entry level contract by today.

While some may be surprised the Saskatoon native has cracked the Leafs lineup, his junior coach, Ryan Huska, is not one of them.

In fact, Huska expected Schenn to make the Leafs roster at the start of the NHL season, even though the consensus at the beginning of training camp was that Schenn would be sent back to the Kelowna Rockets when Leafs camp broke.

"We planned this summer that we would be without Luke," Huska said. "But we also believe, if he came back, he would be the best defenceman in the Canadian Hockey League this season. That's the goal we would have set for him."

Huska said he is genuinely happy for Schenn, though it is obviously a blow to his club.

The Rockets, who were eliminated in the Western Hockey League quarterfinals last season, are expecting to have a good year and could have been contenders with Schenn in the lineup.

'WISH HIM WELL'

But now they're starting their campaign missing two veteran blueliners, Schenn and Tysen Dowzak, who is with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.

"From a selfish point of view, sure we would have liked to have had him back," Huska said. "But for Luke to get a chance to stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs, that's his dream, and we wish him well."

Huska said the Rockets will miss Schenn's leadership on and off the ice.

"He's a guy that everybody on our team wants to be around, and that says a lot about a person's character. He has time for everybody," Huska said.


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