100 games in, Schenn still learning

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Learning on the job hasn't come easy for Luke Schenn.

It's a lot to ask of any 20-year-old to make a positive impact in the first couple of years in his profession, and for Schenn, who reached a small milestone last night against the New York Islanders when he skated in his 100th National Hockey League game, trying to get it done on the Maple Leafs blue line in hockey-mad Toronto came with challenges the day the club drafted him.

"There have been ups and downs, but the big thing when you come into the league is there is a lot of learning to do, and I have a lot more to do," Schenn said. "Overall, I think it has gone well. Hopefully, the upside continues to grow.

"Having just turned 20 (on Nov. 2) and to be playing in my 100th game, it is special. I'm lucky."

Of the 12 defencemen chosen in the first round in 2008, only the Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty, who had played in 112 games, has seen more action than Schenn.

A native of Saskatoon, Schenn endeared himself to Leafs Nation last season with his physical style. But just as fast as his No. 2 sweaters began popping up on the backs of fans at the Air Canada Centre, his play took a bit of dive earlier this season and there were calls for him to be banished to the press box, if not to the Marlies.

Yet Leafs coach Ron Wilson has stuck with Schenn, some might say stubbornly, and the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has played in every game so far in 2009-10.

Though Schenn led the Leafs prior to the Isles tilt with 58 hits, Wilson didn't concur with the idea that Schenn is rediscovering a bit of a mean streak that helped get him through his freshman year.

"Not really," Wilson said. "I don't see it. He needs to be more physical."

Schenn averaged 21 minutes, 32 seconds of ice time a year ago. He was at 19 minutes, 41 seconds going into last night.

"I think he is doing the kind of things I expected from a second-year defenceman," Wilson said. "He is up and down. I am not looking for getting top-four minutes because we have more vets deserving of that ice time.

"That seems to be a tough pill for everybody to swallow, that he is not getting top-two minutes, but he is not good enough to get those minutes. Luke will, eventually, take on a bigger role on our defence."

TERRY.KOSHAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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