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Benn Gunning For Roster Spot In September

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

Could he be this season’s James Neal? 

Highly-touted prospect Jamie Benn will attend Dallas Stars training camp in September looking to win a roster spot on the NHL team. In doing so, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound left winger hopes to at least come close to duplicating the success Neal enjoyed as a 21-year-old rookie last season, which would be a tremendous bonus for the organization. 

Neal’s impressive 24-goal campaign is probably a bit too much to expect, but Benn, who turns 20 on July 18, is confident he can turn some heads at camp following a spectacular season in junior hockey. He isn’t the only one; many observers believe he will become a significant offensive contributor in the NHL at some point. 

“My goal is to make the team and I’m going to come in here and do my best to do that,” said Benn, who participated in a small orientation last week at the club’s practice facility at Frisco’s Dr Pepper Arena. “We’ll see what happens and I can’t wait for it to start. There’s a big task ahead of me and I’ve got to be ready for it.”

Club management has high hopes for the highly-talented prospect, although they don’t want to rush him. Even though Benn was outstanding in helping Kelowna to the WHL championship after scoring 46 goals, which ranked fifth in the league, and 82 points in 56 games during his final year of junior, he still might need to spend some time next season apprenticing with the organization’s new AHL affiliate, the Austin-based Texas Stars. After all, Neal spent his entire first year pro in the AHL before sticking in Dallas last year.

“It’s hard to say, he’ll answer those questions as we go ahead,” said Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson, regarding Benn’s likely destination for 2009-10. “He’s coming off a real good junior career, so he’ll have an opportunity to make our team and if he’s not quite ready, we’ll send him to Austin.”

After winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, then leading his Kelowna club to a league championship and then the Memorial Cup Final, Benn stockpiled significant experience playing - and excelling - in pressure situations this past year, which can only benefit him as he advances to the next level.

“That helps you a lot,” said Benn, who scored 13 goals and a league-best 33 points in 19 WHL playoff games and added five goals and a tournament-high nine points in four Memorial Cup contests. “Whenever you can play in high-end situations and with lots of pressure on you, it’s good for you, I think, and you can learn a lot from it. I think it just makes you better.”

For Benn, the Stars’ fifth-round selection (129th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, enjoying such a triumphant season, both personally and for the teams that he suited up for, proves he knows what it takes to win.

Benn and John Tavares
“It went pretty well and I think I had a pretty successful year and so did my team,” said Benn, a native of Victoria, BC, who contributed four goals and six points for Canada in six World Junior Championship games. “(The Memorial Cup) was a good experience and we had a pretty good ride there. It would have been nice to top it off there, but it was a good year overall. (The World Junior Championships) was a great experience and one I’ll never forget. There’s no better feeling than winning gold for your country.”

Benn also received respectful praise from former rival Scott Glennie, the Stars’ newest draft choice, who was picked eighth overall by Dallas in the 2009 Draft on June 26. Glennie, a center for Brandon in the WHL, played against Benn several times and was happy to be sharing the same locker room with him last week during their training sessions.

“To be honest, this was the first time I’ve met Jamie and he’s my roommate down here,” Glennie said. “He’s a great guy, I really like him. He’s a great pickup for this organization.”

While Benn figures to experience some growing pains somewhere along the way, his development into an important NHL contributor progresses and his future looks very bright indeed.

“He’s maturing,” Jackson acknowledged. “He’s got real good puck skills, he’s got real good feel for the game. He could have an impact offensively, he’s a kid that’s making good steps and he has a chance to be a good pro. It’s just a matter of learning the pro game and adjusting to pro life. Time will tell. But right now, he looks like an exciting prospect.”

The first step in the process begins at September’s training camp. 

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