Toronto Maple Leafs not sending young blue-liner Schenn back to junior

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TORONTO - Luke Schenn is staying with the big boys.

The rookie defenceman will remain in Toronto rather than be sent back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, the Maple Leafs reported Monday. Toronto head coach Ron Wilson confirmed the 18-year-old will stay with the Leafs for the remainder of the season.

"We played in Detroit, he was one of the best players on the ice," Wilson said on the Maple Leafs' website. "We played Anaheim in here, he was one of our best players. He's been our best defenseman, defensively, in almost every game. That's good enough for me."

Schenn, Toronto's first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2008 draft, has yet to record a point and has a minus-three rating over his first eight games. But Wilson said he has shown good defensive instincts, and Schenn has averaged more than 21 minutes of ice time so far - second-most among rookies.

The six-foot-two, 215-pound defenceman is even coming off his first career NHL fight - a spirited bout with Ottawa's Chris Neil, who had taken out Maple Leafs forward Matt Stajan with a hit moments earlier. Schenn was named first star of Saturday's game, a 3-2 win over the Senators.

Junior-age players can play nine games before their NHL contracts take effect. Schenn's ninth game comes Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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