Much has been made about the Vancouver Canucks’ defence group, especially on the right side. It’s a glaring weakness for the Canucks, and a position group that has held the team back at times. In an attempt to rework the right side of their blueline, the organization has taken flyers on several reclamation projects to varying degrees of success. One that has worked out better than anyone could have hoped has been the club’s acquisition — for the second time — of Luke Schenn.
Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 5th overall selection, Schenn never quite lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. Playing in Toronto as a teenager, the spotlight was large, and while big and physical, he never managed to become the do-it-all minute-crunching defenceman the team had hoped for.
After an AHL demotion and a coach suggesting to him that maybe the NHL game had passed him by, Schenn eventually made his way to the West Coast and played a brief stint with the Canucks during the 2018-19 NHL season. After he wasn’t re-signed the following offseason, he would end up in Tampa Bay with the Lightning. During two seasons with that organization, Schenn won two Stanley Cups. He would then return to Vancouver on a two-year contract, bringing that Stanley Cup winning experience with him.
Last season, during the first year of his new deal with the Canucks, Schenn was a mini relevation. Fans fell in love with his hard-nosed style of play and his willingness to stick up for teammates.
He showed strong chemistry with superstar Quinn Hughes and filled in well as the phenom’s partner, giving the Canucks at least a temporary solution. He finished the season with 17 points in 66 games.
This season, Schenn has gone from fan-favourite to a legitimate very good defenceman. He’s revitalized his career with the Canucks and proven that he can still perform at a very high level, despite the team around him falling to pieces. This unexpected progression has granted the Canucks a very dependable right-handed defenceman and if he continues playing like this, he could be strong trade deadline bait for a contender.
What we knew about Schenn
Heading into this season, we already knew that Schenn possessed several positive characteristics. Never the flashiest defenceman, his steady game helped wear down opponents and keep the puck out of his own net.
He’s one of the most prolific hitters in NHL history. He’s currently leading the NHL in hits with 73 and is on pace to become the first player in league history to reach 3000 career hits since it became an official stat in 2005-06. That physical presence is appreciated even more on a Canucks team with several smaller, puck-moving defencemen.
Schenn leads all Canucks players with a 62.50% goals for percentage at 5-on-5. The Canucks have scored 15 goals with him on the ice during those minutes and conceded just nine, a better mark than Elias Pettersson. Good things typically happen for the Canucks at 5-on-5 while Schenn is on the ice, a statement that not many Canucks players can claim this season.
This is all despite not getting the easiest deployment. Schenn’s 5-on-5 shifts have started in the offensive zone just 43.08% of the time according to NaturalStatTrick
, the lowest mark on the Canucks. This only makes his efforts this season more impressive as he is often deployed in a defensive role.
We knew that he was a solid offensive player and could throw the body around, but he has proven his value even more this season and become a major offensive contributor as well.
This season’s surprising offensive explosion
Typically viewed as a stay-at-home defenceman, Schenn has broken free of that stereotype this season and shown off some offensive chops. He’s currently tied for sixth among all NHL defencemen in 5-on-5 points. That’s a massive achievement for the 33 year-old to be that high up the leaderboard after about 20% of the season.
Schenn’s career-high in points is 22, a number that he hit twice as a young man with the Maple Leafs. Over the past decade, he hasn’t beat the 17 points he managed across 61 games with the Canucks last season. With seven points through the first 16 games of this season, he’s well on pace to shatter those numbers.
To make things more impressive, Schenn’s seven points include a goal, four primary assists, and two secondary assists. As a comparison, Hughes also has seven points at 5-on-5 this season, yet those are made of zero goals, three primary assists, and four secondary assists.
There are some warning signs that this isn’t completely sustainable — Schenn’s PDO (a common barometer for puck luck) is tops among Canucks skaters with at least 10 games — but it has been a remarkable run. Even a continued performance of a fraction of the success would be strong production from Schenn who carries a cap hit under $1 million.
Schenn’s impact beyond the box score
Beyond his impact on the ice, Schenn is also a valuable member of the dressing room. He has enjoyed a long NHL career with plenty of ups and downs and that experience is valuable. There’s a reason that Stanley Cup champion winning players are sought after around the league. He has shown an effort to contribute to a winning culture in Vancouver.
The Canucks have a really good one in Luke Schenn. Not only has he been playing great on the ice, but he’s proven to be a great person off of it.
While this is exactly the type of player you want on your roster, it would make sense for the Canucks to look to offload him at the deadline and recoup some assets that better fit their competitive timeline. If that does happen then Luke Schenn will always be remembered in Vancouver for the outsized impact he has already made during his few seasons here.