Rockets pair zoomed to success together
|The Kelowna Rockets' Luke Schenn likes to play a physical game, much like NHL bruisers Dion Phaneuf and Chris Pronger.
The Kelowna Rockets defensemen have been through a lot together. They were teammates for three seasons with the Western Hockey League team, played in top prospects games and all-star events, and now are going through the draft process together.
Myers, ranked No. 4 among North American skaters for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by NHL Central Scouting, and Schenn, ranked fifth, traveled together to Detroit for the Top Prospects Luncheon where they attended the Penguins' and Red Wings' morning skates, met members of both teams and had prime seats for a Stanley Cup Final game.
They even shared a room at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel for the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto last month.
That partnership almost certainly will come to an end sometime during the first round of the Draft, when each is selected by different teams. It may be an end, but it's also the first step to what should be two very productive professional futures.
"It makes it a lot easier with a guy like that to go through your draft year with," Myers said of Schenn. "It's fun whenever you get to do events with a teammate, you get to talk to each other about the different things that have happened. It's going well."
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"It was great to step in and get to live with Luke," said Myers. "He taught me how they do things in Kelowna. I got to learn the routine from him."
"He got called up as a 15-year-old and he spent the rest of the season with us," Schenn said. "He stayed with my billets and myself. It was cool that he stayed with me and we got to know each other."
It wasn't long before the rest of the hockey world got to know them.
At 6-foot-7, Myers is difficult to miss because he's the tallest player among the 305 listed by NHL Central Scouting. His play has been as impressive as his height. He was third among Rockets defensemen with 19 points, but it's his skating and his 81-inch wingspan that cause opponents difficulty.
"He's got a huge wingspan," said Zach Boychuk, the No. 8-ranked forward, whose Lethbridge Hurricanes played the Rockets twice this past season. "And you need to pay attention to his long stick. He'll keep it tight into him and then all of a sudden poke (check) you out of nowhere, so you have to be pretty aware with him."
Myers, who draws comparisons to Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara – the 6-9 Chara also is a WHL alumnus, playing in 1996-97 with Prince George – but Myers is considered a far better skater than Chara was at the same age.
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"It's one of my biggest strengths," Myers said of his skating. "As a bigger guy people don't look at me as being a good skater but it's probably my biggest strength and I like to use it effectively on the ice."
Schenn's biggest strength is his strength. At 6-2 and a solid 216 pounds, Schenn likes to pattern his game after a pair of offensively gifted bruising blueliners in Dion Phaneuf and Chris Pronger.
"They both play really physical games and they're tough guys to play against and make it tough on the forwards out there," Schenn said.
"He takes hits and he makes hits, too," Boychuk said. "He loves to stay physical. He's so poised with the puck. You see him making that first pass so well."
"He plays one-on-ones unbelievably," added Everett forward Kyle Beach, the No. 7-rated North American skater, who faced the Rockets four times this past season. "He's probably one of the toughest guys to beat in the league. When he gets a chance to finish a hit or a chance to get a shot on goal, he takes advantage of it. He's got some great upside to him."
Schenn had seven goals and 28 points – second among Rockets blueliners – in 57 games this past season, and he also helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships, going scoreless but finishing a team-best plus-5.
He also played a leadership role with the Rockets, especially helping Myers along.
"He's obviously an amazing player and you get to learn from him throughout the year," Myers said of Schenn. "He's one of the reasons I've improved as much as I have this year."
"Not too many people get around him because of his huge reach," Schenn said of his teammate. "He's a really good skater. He's really improved on his skating since he got into the league."
At just 204 pounds, Myers still needs to get stronger and fill out physically, which should come easily once he gets into an NHL strength-training program, while Schenn needs to improve his decision-making skills.
Both, though, should do what's needed to have solid professional careers.
"There may be a night when the large feet of Myers get in his way a little bit," said E.J. McGuire, director of Central Scouting. "But to hear scouts talk, they won't get in his way for very many more years.
"Luke can play a mean game and he plays a tough, NHL-style defense that is guaranteed to get him a long hard look and career in the National Hockey League."
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer