Luke Schenn has been a reliable defenceman for the Canucks

After winning two Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Luke Schenn decided to go back to the West Coast and sign with the Vancouver Canucks. He signed a two-year contract worth $850,000 per season. Schenn is in his second stint with the Canucks since he played 18 games with them in the 2018-19 season.

Schenn was drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008. Unfortunately, Schenn did not live up to expectations and is one of the Leafs’ biggest draft busts especially considering defencemen like Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson and John Carlson were taken after.

After four seasons in Toronto, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for James van Riemsdyk. He later was part of the deal that sent Vincent Lecavalier to the Los Angeles Kings and also played for the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.

You might be wondering what they were saying about Schenn around the time of the 2008 draft. After doing some digging on the internet, I found out what NHL Central Scouting was saying about Schenn before the draft:

“A big strong defenceman who might compare with Ed Jovanovski. Has a tough edge and has the ability to, if caught up ice, work hard and get back in time to recover. Sometimes defence partner of 6-7 draft prospect Tyler Myers.

After Schenn was drafted here is what TSN’s Bob Mckenzie said:

“What the scouts really like about this guy is that he knows that he’s not a great offensive defenceman. He knows his limitations. He knows that he’s a defence-first guy and he doesn’t try to do too much with the puck. But what he does do with the puck is highly efficient. He makes the first pass. This guy did not have a single point in the World Junior Championship and was arguably one of the best players on the ice from start to finish in that tournament. He led Canada in plus/minus, he was a plus-five at the World Junior. This is a guy who knows his job and knows how to do it, and you’re right. He’s physically punishing, a shutdown defenceman, mean and nasty.”

Why didn’t Schenn work out in Toronto? One reason is that his development was rushed. Schenn was put into the Maple Leafs’ lineup the next season instead of returning him to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. He had two goals and 14 assists in his rookie season. Another reason was that the Leafs put high expectations of him. Some people were even talking about him being the future captain of the Leafs. As said above, he isn’t an offensive guy but was expected to excel defensively.

Unfortunately, he underwhelmed defensively in Toronto and that was likely a big reason why he was traded to Philadelphia.

Flash forward to the present and Schenn is starting to become a fan favourite among Canucks fans. Perhaps no one is a bigger fan of his than Wyatt Arndt of The Athletic.

Schenn has scored three goals and got seven assists in 32 games. His 135 hits lead the Canucks and is 13th in the NHL in the hits department. In fact, Schenn has been one of the best hitters in league history dating back to the 2005-06 season. He has 2,702 career hits and that is eighth in that period.

Schenn has been throwing his body around often this season. That included eight hits in the 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Schenn averages 6.39 hits per 60 minutes per NaturalStatTrick. He has been good in the defensive zone as well, particularly around the net.

Schenn’s underlying numbers are decent too. His Corsi for is at 51.84% at five-on-five. which is eighth on the Canucks (for players who have played at least 300 minutes.) and is second among defencemen behind Quinn Hughes. He is fifth in takeaways per 60 with 0.92 at five-on-five. Schenn also has the fourth least Corsi against with 53.52. That is also second-least among Canucks defencemen behind Hughes.

Speaking of Hughes, he was often paired up with Schenn before he entered the COVID protocol. The pair has a 56.12% CF and has given up 49.07 CA. They get a lot of scoring chances from the blueline. Schenn often covers for Hughes when he gets beat defensively and he is quick to get the puck to Hughes to start a quick exit out of the defensive zone.

While Schenn has done well with Hughes, he probably isn’t the best long-term partner. He is good defensively and brings a good physical presence but an ideal partner for Hughes would also need to provide offence which Schenn doesn’t really possess. It would be tough to find someone as physical and defensively sound as Schenn that also provides offence.

Schenn’s name has been brought up in the trade rumour department. Rick Dhaliwal on Monday’s edition of Donnie and Dhali: The Team on CHEK TV mentioned that the Leafs have interest in bringing back Schenn to Toronto.  The Leafs could use Schenn for help on their bottom pair.

However, unless they get a really good offer, the Canucks should keep Schenn. He is a reliable third-pairing defenceman who is defensively sound in front of his net and is physical. Sometimes he can get caught making defensive mistakes and he doesn’t provide offence and might not have lived up to expectations as a fifth overall pick but he is doing well as a depth stay-at-home defenceman who can hit as hard as a headbutt from Zinidine Zidane with the Canucks on a cheap contract.