The Dallas Stars didn’t own a first-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but they selected Nico Sacchetti (50th) and Sergei Korostin (64th) in the second and third rounds. Today, that duo combines for zero points across zero NHL games.
The Stars did, however, own four fifth-round picks, passing on Victoria Grizzlies’ forward Jamie Benn multiple times, as did every other team.
Not even the club’s first pick in the fifth round, the Stars ended up with the steal of the draft with the 129th overall selection, who would become the face of the organization for years to come.
“We were lucky,” said Les Jackson, Stars former director of player personnel, of selecting Benn. “If we were so smart, we would have had him earlier. If we knew he was going to be this good, he would have been a first-round pick.”Source: Dallas Stars
The Victoria native would go on to complete his second and final Western Hockey League (WHL) season with a star-studded Kelowna Rockets’ team in 2009. Combining for 115 points (59 goals) in 75 regular season and postseason games, he led the Rockets to a WHL Championship before making his professional debut with the Stars at the age of 20.
Following a 22-goal (41-point) rookie campaign in Dallas, where he played all 82 games and finished seventh in Calder Trophy voting, he joined the club’s affiliate, the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL), for the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. Benn provided an immediate boost, collecting 26 points (14 goals) in his first 24 AHL games and led Texas to their first Calder Cup Final appearance in franchise history.
The club fell to the Hershey Bears in six games, but those playoffs provided Benn with the professional experience needed to take his game to the next level.
Ahead of the 2014-15 season, the 26-year-old was coming off career highs in goals (34), assists (45) and points (79) after being named the Stars’ sixth captain since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993. Not to be denied, Benn surpassed all three categories for a second consecutive season, recording an NHL-best 87 points, along with a career-high 35 goals and 52 assists.
Entering the season finale with 83 points, he passed both Sidney Crosby and John Tavares for the NHL points lead with a dramatic four-point effort in front of his home crowd, and became the first Stars’ player in franchise history to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer.
The next offseason, general manager Jim Nill signed Benn to an eight-year, $76 million contract extension that runs through the 2024-25 season.
Now 31, Benn is still a cornerstone player for the organization after yet another dominant performance in the 2020 postseason when he led the Stars to their first Western Conference Championship in 20 years.
Through 59 career postseason games, Benn’s 49 points tie him for third all-time with Jere Lehtinen and trails only Mike Modano (118) and Sergei Zubov (72) in team history. That was a trio that led the Stars to three consecutive Western Conference Final appearances from 1997-2000, two trips to the Cup Final and will soon sit side by side in the rafters at the American Airlines Center (AAC).
The 12-year veteran enters 2020-21 ranked fourth in franchise history in goals (300), assists (388), points (688), and seventh all-time in games played (814), with at least five more seasons under contract in Dallas barring an unlikely trade.
While the mileage of over 870 NHL games will wear on any player, especially one who plays with Benn’s ferocity and aggression, the records will continue to fall for a player who continues to produce and remains one of the most durable in the NHL — he’s missed 10 games in the last seven seasons.
Only two years removed from a 36-goal season, Benn has recorded at least 25 goals and 53 points in every full NHL campaign since 2011.
Fresh off his first Cup Final appearance exactly 10 years after leading Texas to their first Calder Cup Final, Benn’s unique career with the Stars already makes him among the organization’s all-time greats. But bringing home the club’s first Cup in over 20 years would cement his spot alongside Modano as the franchise’s most iconic star.
Firmly established in the franchise record books, it seems increasingly likely that Benn will join the elite group in the rafters at the AAC one day, with or without a Stanley Cup. Although, he’s made it very clear that winning is the one and the only thing that matters at this point in his career.
Clayton Bailey covers Fantasy Hockey and the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers. The Dallas native previously scouted the Texas Stars for DobberProspects, prior to working in various data, statistics and customer relations roles with Sporting News and DAZN-Canada.