Don Fulton tracked down Luke Schenn, a defenseman for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets who is likely to be a top-five pick in this year’s draft. Schenn’s team is in a playoff series against Thomas Hickey’s Seattle Thunderbirds, with the deciding Game 7 to be played tonight. Here’s Don’s chat with Luke:
Luke Schenn, the big 6-3, 215-lb defenseman for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, was on the outside looking in for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Schenn, who turned 18 on November 2nd barely missed out on being draft-eligible last June (the requirement is that a player must turn 18 by September 15th of the draft year), but has no regrets, instead says that the extra year of development has been a good thing for him.
Schenn, a likely top five pick in the upcoming draft, spoke to us on the morning his Rockets’ team was facing elimination in its first round WHL series against the Thomas Hickey-led Seattle Thunderbirds. Later that night, Schenn scored a second period power play goal for the Rockets, and added two assists, as the Rockets prevailed in overtime, 4-3 to force a seventh and deciding game on Tuesday.
Schenn discusses the role of a big, physical defenseman, the pressure-packed World Juniors, his thoughts on the draft and if he might land a few friendly elbows in the ear of his close friend, the aforementioned Thomas Hickey.
Luke Schenn Q&A
Question: Can you talk a little about what it’s like to be in the post season and in a must-win situation?
Schenn: There’s so much at stake and no one wants the season to end. It’s all about coming out hard and playing desperate hockey, doing whatever it takes to win.
Question: For those of us who have no idea, what is a typical game-day routine for the players?
Schenn: We come out to the rink in the morning and usually have a pre-game skate and maybe a stretch afterwards and then usually a meeting. Usually we are at the rink for a few hours and then head on home for a pre game nap, at least that’s what most guys do, and then have a pre game meal, then just kind of hang out before going back to the rink before the game and get ready and prepare for the game. Each guy kind of prepares differently.
Question: The nap part has to be pretty good.
Schenn: Oh yeah, for sure. Most guys do it and I’m no different.
Question: You’re 6-3, about 215 and there have been favorable comparisons to another big defenseman – Larry Robinson. Are you much into comparisons?
Schenn: To be honest, I never saw Larry Robinson play (laughs).
Question: Fair enough, that’s a bit before your time.
Schenn: I’ve heard comparisons to Adam Foote quite a bit lately.
Question: Okay, let’s step into more modern times. Tell me how your game compares to your contemporaries like Bogosian, Doughty and Pietrangelo.
Schenn: I’ve played with Doughty a few times on Team Canada, the World Juniors and the Super Series, and the first time I got to see Bogosian and Pietrangelo play was at the top prospect game. I was the defensive partner with Bogosian. I think they are all really good players, just probably a little different from me. A guy like Doughty is a little more offensive-minded. I think more on the defensive side of things, but I move the puck well and I try and play the physical game and play a good game defensively.
Question: Speaking of your physical play, can you talk a little about coming to the aid of your teammate Claude Giroux, who took a pretty cheap shot from the Russians in the Super Series?
Schenn: We had pretty much clinched the series at that point and were way up in the game and a couple of their players just tried to do a few silly things and they hit Giroux after the whistle so a couple of us got in there. I think once we got in there they didn’t want anything to do with it (laughs). You just have to stick up for your teammates in that situation and we all because real close because of it. You’re going to stick up for your teammate no matter what the situation is.
Question: The physical aspect of your game is obvious given your frame and the things we have already discussed. Is that particular aspect what defines your game?
Schenn: I’m a bigger guy out there and I have some weight behind me, so that has always been a part of my game, especially in the last couple of years. I think you definitely have to use your size to your advantage and make the forwards think twice about going into your corner. Whenever you have the chance to be physical on someone you have to take advantage of it.
Question: Leadership seems to be another big aspect of your game.
Schenn: Last year we had a very young team, probably 12 rookies, and as a second-year guy I was looked upon to be a leader and this year is the same thing. We’ve had a lot of guys step up this year, and even though we are still a very young team I think we have matured and everyone has a lot more confidence.
Question: How did your game improve in this your third season with the Rockets?
Schenn: When you first come in to the league you’re just trying to feel it out but as you keep going you get more experience and you get more confidence. I think over the years I’ve been able to make adjustments and get quicker and just more the puck quicker. I think it is just getting used to everything being done at a higher speed.
Question: Tell me about your favorite moment or favorite game this last year.
Schenn: Nothing really compares to winning the gold medal at the World Juniors. Most Canadian kids they dream of one day making that happen and playing for their country at the World Juniors with everyone watching come Christmastime on TV, and it was the same for me. Getting the chance to play for Team Canada and to win the gold medal, there’s just no words to describe it. It was pretty cool, and it made it that much more exciting to win it in overtime.
Question: What was the pressure like on you guys to have an entire country focusing its collective attention on you guys to win the tournament?
Schenn: That’s exactly what it is. Everyone is watching. You think of Christmastime in Canada and you think of the World Juniors. There’s great coverage on TV, and everyone wants you to succeed, and we had a 2-0 lead heading into the third and we ended up blowing it, so there were some nervous guys going into overtime just because you know everyone is watching. There is definitely a lot of pressure going in, but everyone steps up and comes with their “A” game.
Question: Did you get a sense early on that you were going to be a professional hockey player?
Schenn: Actually no. You just get a sense as you start to grow as a player, then you get the chance to play in the Western Hockey league and you see some guys who are drafted and moving up to pro, guys that you play with are stepping up to the next level and see how hard they work and see what it takes. You kind of start thinking that if they can do it and I work hard enough, I can do the same thing. The main thing is that you just have to keep getting better and you never know what might happen.
Question: Did you find yourself looking at the calendar last year and thinking, dang, I just missed out by a few months being draft-eligible?
Schenn: I actually thought it could be an advantage because it gave me an extra year to develop and improve that much more as a player. I think it helps having a late birthday and hopefully it works out for me. I think so far it has just been good to get that extra year in.
Question: Is it a strange situation playing against guys who have already been drafted by an NHL club?
Schenn: It’s not really that big of a deal, I mean you’ve been doing it since you were 16. It’s just pretty cool to look up and see guys that you’ve been playing with make that jump to the next level either in the AHL or the National Hockey League. There’s a lot of drafted guys in this league and it makes it a tough league because guys are so talented. It makes you want to improve your game.
Question: Are there drafted guys that you play with or against who already think they are superstars because they’ve been drafted?
Schenn: I guess it depends on the guy. There are lots of guys who want to get better and they’re not satisfied with just getting drafted. There are lots of guys who obviously want to get to that next level, but the draft is one thing, but actually making it to the NHL is obviously another. Just because you’re drafted does not mean that you’ve made it or that you’re going to have a career. The main thing is that you have to keep on improving.
Question: Have you thought much about the upcoming draft?
Schenn: I was thinking about it a lot more earlier in the season, but it just makes you think too much, and to be honest I haven’t given it much thought lately. I’ve just been focused on trying to win hockey games. I found that the more you think about the draft the more you get sidetracked from the things that really matter, and that’s winning as a team. You have to worry about yourself and everything else will take care of itself. You can’t worry about the draft because it’s their decision and not yours, and whatever happens I’ll be very thankful and move on from there.
Question: Still, knowing that you are likely a top five pick, you have to be checking those NHL standings, right?
Schenn: For sure, but not only to see who might be picking first, but also to check out the playoff races that are all so tight right now. Every day teams are fighting for spots and positions in the standings. One day you’re in, like Vancouver and then next day you might be out.
Question: Have you given any thought to the possibility of being a member of the Los Angeles Kings?
Schenn: I think that would be unbelievable. I’m friends with Thomas Hickey and roomed with him, and we’ve played pretty well together. That would be pretty cool if that happened, us being together.
Question: Regarding Hickey, you guys get much of a chance to chat during your series?
Schenn: He’ll drop me a text message to tell me good game and stuff. I’m sure after the series we’ll talk. When you don’t play each other during the regular season we usually talk a few times on the phone or on the computer or text messages. We’re real close buddies. We’ve roomed together quite a bit, so we know each other pretty well, but during the series we’re pretty much keeping to ourselves.
Question: Not even the occasional friendly elbow?
Schenn: Actually, we’ve made contact on the ice a few times, maybe when he makes a rush up the ice I might give him a little shove and try to hit him and he’ll do the same thing to me, so it’s all business when you’re on the ice. Off the ice we’re obviously good buddies.
Question: Take it easy on Hickey. You’re way bigger than he is.
Schenn: Yeah, he’s not the biggest guy, but he’s having himself a heck of a series. He’s a heck of a player.
Question: In general, when any team’s amateur scout or GM approaches you after a game, what do they typically talk to you about?
Schenn: Usually they just try to get to know what kind of guy you are and see what you’re like. I guess they want to see if you’re confident enough and what kind of personality you have. They talk to you about the type of player you are and what you need to work on and just ask about a lot of things, like your family and try to get to know you as a person.
Question: The just want to make sure that you’re not crazy……
Schenn: Pretty much (laughs).