If there was one player being looked upon to help pick up the considerable slack in the wake of Brad Richards’ off-season departure to the New York Rangers, it was 22-year-old Stars up and comer Jamie Benn
After all, Benn or “Bennie” was coming off a 56-point season (22-34-56) for Dallas last season, giving him a new career high in points despite missing some 13 games due to injury. And through the Stars’ first 23 games of this season, he has been every bit as good as advertised as he is currently averaging a point per game with 23 markers (6-17-23) through an equal number of games.
But the ultimate mark of how much he has meant to this year’s club is illustrated in one telling statistic. So far this year, the Stars are 10-3-1 when Benn registers at least at point and 3-6-0 when he doesn’t find the score sheet. And when he has multiple points, Dallas is 6-0-1.
It’s nothing new, especially since last year the Stars were 27-9-5 when Benn was on the stat sheet and 13-22-6 when he didn’t have a single point. Of course, he did miss 13 of those games but those are still telling numbers.
New Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan had previously coached Benn during the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. He was highly impressed with his young scorer then, but it’s safe to say he’s noticed one major difference between that previous version of No. 14 and the current incarnation.
“Honestly, he’s turning into a man now,” Gulutzan said. “You just see him now and he looks different. His body looks different. He’s slimmer in the face and he’s making a transition that most guys see. He’s turning into a very powerful guy and he trains hard. The biggest thing is I’ve seen is all the skill was there when I had him. It’s just now the athleticism is coming out with the training and the way he’s pushing himself away from the rink and you’re getting a more complete athlete now.”
Dallas veteran center Steve Ott
has seen that same evolution in Benn since he first made his NHL debut just a few seasons ago. And like his coach and his teammates, he knows the sky truly is the limit for the heights Benn could reach in the league.
“When I first saw him in the development camp to where he is now, it’s been so big of a gap that I have probably never seen a player yet in our organization make that big of a jump. The potential that he still exudes now is beyond where he’s at right now,” Ott said. “He’s going to be a dynamic superstar in this league for a lot of years. Not only is he a great kid off the ice, but on the ice he brings it as well. It’s kind of that whole changing of the guard, that new, young mentality that’s coming in. He’s going to be a franchise player for a lot of years.”
Already this year, Benn has had a variety of line mates but Gulutzan currently has him skating alongside 2011 NHL All-Star Loui Eriksson
and newcomer Michael Ryder
with Benn manning the center spot.
Ryder, a member of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship squad before coming to Dallas in the off-season, has only been skating with Jamie for a few months, but he’s definitely quite impressed with the considerable upside his new teammate displays on a daily basis.
“Bennie’s got a lot of speed. He carries that puck up well and he’s a big, strong boy,” he said. “When he uses his body and speed, he’s a hard guy to stop. He can see the ice really well and I feel like I can read off him pretty well. It seems to be working pretty well for us.”
Like most NHL players, Ott and Ryder don’t get too caught up in statistics. However, they do admit the Stars’ record when Benn has at least a point this year and in recent history shows how invaluable he is to this club.
“For sure, he’s a catalyst player,” Ott said. “When we lost [Brad] Richards, we knew we needed a guy to step into that role. We also knew we had Jamie Benn
coming up and he had to be given that strong opportunity to succeed. We all knew in here he could be that player if not even be more instrumental than what Richie was. He’s that type of player. He’s got the speed, the skill set and strength to be a huge player for a lot of years.”
Ryder concurs. “When he’s on his game, he does a lot of things. He can change a game himself right there and for sure, he’s a big part of this team. We need him if we’re going to win,” he said. “When he’s playing his game, you can see him out there skating and using his speed. He makes it look easy sometimes.”