Sorry, Jacob Markstrom and Elias Pettersson, the surprise of the Vancouver Canucks’ 2018-19 campaign has been…Luke Schenn?
That might be overstating things a bit, but there’s no arguing that Schenn has made a massive impact, on both his teammates and the fanbase in Vancouver.
He’s been physically imposing on the ice, willing to hit every opponent in sight and seems to actually relish the chance to muck it up with anyone who comes near any of his more skilled teammates. In short, he’s provided the exact type of pushback the Canucks thought they would be getting nightly when they traded for (and then re-signed) Erik Gudbranson.
Gudbranson didn’t work out very well, but in Schenn the Canucks have an inexpensive, low maintenance punisher who is desperate to stay in the NHL after spending much of this season in the AHL with Anaheim’s farm team, the San Diego Gulls.
And no, Schenn isn’t exactly the picture of the modern NHL defenceman. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (if you were wondering how much the league has changed, that’s as good an indicator as any) has two points in 15 games with the Canucks and isn’t exactly a darling of the advanced stats community.
But he has provided a security for rookie Quinn Hughes (the two have been partnered in the two games Hughes has played in the NHL thus far) and given the Canucks an edge of physicality the team has lacked for, well, a long, long time.
There’s something every fan (and teammate) can appreciate about a player willing to lay it all on the line night after night for his club. And Schenn has done just that, to the tune of 26 hits and 10 blocked shots.
He also hasn’t been nearly as much a liability with the puck as Gudbranson was proving himself to be. No, he’s not exactly quick, but he does get the puck out of his zone with pace and accuracy.
So it didn’t come as a shock when The Province’s Ben Kuzma reported that Canucks general manager Jim Benning intends to bring back Schenn (who is on an expiring contract) next year.
The 29-year-old will likely sign something in the neighbourhood of a $1 million, one-year deal with the Canucks, and that makes sense for the team. And expect it to be a one-way pact as well, which means he’ll have to go through waivers in order to be sent down to Utica of the AHL.
That’ll be important for Schenn at this point in his career and, though he wasn’t claimed when that happened to him this year, he has earned that designation.
Good for Schenn. And for the Canucks for turning Michael Del Zotto, who wasn’t working with the team, into a draft pick and Schenn, who has proven to be useful.
And, you know, for fans that get to watch Schenn take no prisoners for another year. It’s pretty fun.
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