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(NATHAN DENETTE)
(NATHAN DENETTE)

Schenn, Kadri hang on tight to Leafs' roller coaster Add to ...

One game, their names were the subject of trade rumours and trending on Twitter.

The next, they played a key role in a Toronto Maple Leafs victory as they both skated with high-profile linemates in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Such is life in Toronto for Luke Schenn and Nazem Kadri, two of the Leafs’ youngest players who have learned not to get too caught up in the local rumour mill.

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Even if at times it can be hard to ignore.

Schenn experienced that last week when, as he tried to have a pregame nap in Buffalo, his phone began to beep uncontrollably. Media reports that he was headed to Philadelphia via trade, to join his younger brother, were everywhere, and the text messages were coming in by the dozens.

“I think it was on the front of NHL.com,” Schenn said as the Leafs prepared for Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. “And TSN was talking about it. People were asking me if I was traded or might be traded or whatever.

“I put my phone on silent. But when I woke up, it was blowing up pretty good [with friends]asking what the deal was.”

An hour later at the rink, Leafs GM Brian Burke pulled Schenn aside and told him not to worry as there was nothing to the talk, a gesture Schenn said he appreciated.

Less than a week later, coach Ron Wilson had shifted Schenn onto his top defence pairing with captain Dion Phaneuf, as he gave the 22-year-old about 18 minutes ice time in one of his bigger recent workloads.

“It’s been kind of weird the last little bit,” Schenn said. “I’ve dealt with it before. It’s my fourth year in Toronto now, that type of stuff happens. Like every year, it’s been ups and downs.”

Kadri has been through a similar stretch of late, albeit with fewer headlines. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old forward was a healthy scratch against the Ottawa Senators and figured maybe he was headed back to the minors.

The next day at practice, however, he was on a line with Joffrey Lupul – one of the NHL’s leading scorers – and veteran centre Tim Connolly as Wilson radically rejigged his lineup.

Kadri responded by scoring a highlight-reel goal 50 seconds into Thursday’s game, and he earned praise from Wilson and his teammates for one of his better performances in a 45-game NHL career.

“Especially with me being a scratch the last game, I wanted to come out and make an impact right away,” Kadri said. “No better way to do it.

“When I came up here, Wilson told me that this is my opportunity to kind of make myself a full-time NHLer and really my fate is in my hands.”

On the whole, Schenn and Kadri haven’t exactly had banner seasons.

Schenn has laboured at times in his own end and was down to averaging roughly 16 minutes a night on the third pairing before joining Phaneuf.

Kadri didn’t make the big club out of training camp, instead going to the Toronto Marlies, where he once again put up a point a game. With the Leafs, however, his latest goal was only his sixth point in 15 games.

Those two, however, constitute the organization’s only draft picks taken higher than 10th overall in the last 20 years, a stunning stretch without relying on the draft given all the low points of late.

The question now for Toronto: With only a low playoff seed in sight this season, is it worth giving up on a player this young in order to make a postseason push this season or next?

Or do you keep waiting and hoping Schenn and Kadri quickly become part of the team’s core, with one a solid, stay-at-home defenceman who fits into their top four and the other a 60-point winger/centre among the top six forwards?

That’s the debate for Burke, and it’s one he should have an easier time resolving with both young players in a more prominent role over the coming weeks.

For now, anyway, the pair are expected to stay put. And after a few more nights like Thursday, the rumour mill may just move on.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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