How about Jamie Benn of the Dallas Texas Stars? As part of the annual “send your entry level players to the minors if you don’t make the playoffs” day, Benn was sent to Dallas’ AHL farm team once the parent club missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
This came after the former Kelowna Rocket and 2009 World Junior spent the entire 2009-10 season playing for the big club in the NHL. Not only did he play the full 82 game schedule with Dallas, but he finished fifth in rookie scoring with 41 points and was successful in making the move from wing to centre when both Mike Modano and Mike Ribeiro went out of the Dallas lineup. Being able to switch from his natural position during his first year just shows how good of an understanding Benn has for the game.
Benn has shown even more of that understanding since he entered the AHL Playoffs with Texas, basically putting the team on his shoulders at times. In the 14 games he has played for Texas, he has 11 goals and eight assists. While those numbers look great on paper, it is when Benn has been getting them that makes it all the more impressive.
In their opening game against the Rockford Icehogs in round 1, Benn opened the scoring late in the first period, a lead Texas never gave back, winning the game 2-1. Heading back to Rockford with a 2-0 series lead, Benn contributed late again, setting up a powerplay goal with just 25 seconds in period one and then scored a goal of his own a little over a minute into period two. This opened the floodgates as they went on to score three more in the period and won Game 3 6-1. Benn had four points.
Benn’s clutch continued into Round 2 against the Chicago Wolves. With Game 1 tied at two going into the third, Benn scored just 16 seconds to give his team the lead. While the game was eventually tied, Benn set up the game winner in overtime. With eights points in his first five playoffs games, Benn cooled down over the next three games and didn’t record a point.
The brief hiatus from the scoresheet ended in Game 5 when, after Chicago opened the scoring, Benn rattled off three goals and an assist in just over 17 minutes of play, helping Texas take a 3-2 series lead.After taking four shots in a Game 6 shutout loss at home, Benn scored the overtime winner in a wild 6-5 Game 7 to help Texas advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The impressive play has not stopped for Benn so far against the Bulldogs. In Game 1, he scored his ninth and tenth goals, the second with 1:35 left in regulation to send the game to overtime. In Wednesday’s Game 3, he helped turn an early 1-0 Hamilton lead into a 2-1 Texas lead in under two minutes with a powerplay goal and assist.
Winning Wednesday’s game was a huge win for Texas as it kept them away from the dreaded 0-3 hole against a very stingy Hamilton defense. With the next two games at home, Texas will need Benn to continue to add to his young but brilliant AHL career. For the Dallas Stars, they have be ecstatic with finding a rare gem in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Draft who has shown the ability to not only adapt to the talent level of the NHL, but also the willingness to drop back down to the minors to help take his game to the next level.
With Mike Modano’s imminent retirement and rumours of Ribeiro being shipped out of town for some much needed help on the blue line, Benn is all but set to line up as the Stars’ second line centre to begin next season. Did I mention that he is only 20?