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Jordie Benn legitimate candidate for Stars’ blueline next season

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

He may be overshadowed by his more celebrated younger brother, but Jordie Benn remains an impressive player in his own right and looks to challenge for a job on the Dallas Stars’ blueline in 2012-13.

After clawing his way up the minor league ladder, skating for the local Central Hockey League club, the Allen Americans, during his brother’s NHL rookie year of 2009-10, Jordie made his big-league debut for the Stars this past season and did not look out of place by any means.

The strong all-around defenseman even earned two assists in the three NHL contests he participated in, while also performing admirably in the defensive zone, posting a +1 plus/minus rating, delivering three hits and blocking two shots, while averaging 13:57 of ice time per outing.

“It’s a dream come true being in the NHL and I got a sniff this year and we’ll see what happens next year,” said Jordie, 24, who also played 62 games for the AHL Texas Stars in 2011-12. “It’s kind of hitting me that it’s a possibility that I could be an NHL hockey player, but you just take it day-to-day. You can’t really think about it, you get nervous doing that, just take it day-by-day.”

For Jamie, who at 22 just completed his third NHL season by posting career-highs with 26 goals, 37 assists and 63 points, not to mention a +15 plus/minus rating in 71 games, it was a moment to cherish when he skated alongside his brother for the first time back on Jan. 3 in a 5-4 loss to Detroit. Jordie and Jamie even earned assists on the same goal, by Loui Eriksson, in that contest.

“That was a dream come true, that Detroit game was special for me and him and our family, and is something we’ll never forget,” said Jamie, who quickly made arrangements to fly his parents to Dallas for that game when he found out Jordie was recalled. “It was pretty special for both of us and pretty cool to play together and both assist on the same goal. I think he did well. He’s a good player, he knows the game pretty well, and I think he did a pretty good job back there.”

Jordie’s performance this season didn’t just impress his brother.

“I thought he was really good, thought he was real clean,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

“’Bennie’ was up here for a while with us and can play, too,” said center Mike Ribeiro. “A guy who can move the puck and move his feet - it’s important for D-men to be mobile.”

Playing for Gulutzan - as well as assistant coach Paul Jerrard - the year before at AHL Texas helped make the transition to the big time smoother for Jordie, who seemed to fit in well during three brief recalls throughout the season.

“’Gully’ and ‘Paulie’ are good coaches, so I just try to be a sponge and take it all in,” the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Jordie said of his approach while in Dallas. “When I first walked in, they came up to me and said, ‘You know what you’re doing, we hear you’re playing pretty good, so just come in and play. You know our system, so just keep doing what you’re doing.’”

He played well in the AHL all season, anchoring his squad’s blueline at both ends of the ice, leading all Texas defenseman with nine goals and 32 points. And while his -9 rating might not look great, it actually was the best among Texas D-men that played more than 20 games on a team that finished last in the 15-team Western Conference.

Now that he’s got three NHL games on his resume, including the regular season finale after the Stars were eliminated from the playoff chase, Benn should benefit from the experience of having already tasted life in the NHL.

“That was a blast, a dream come true,” Benn said of his NHL auditions. “I got to play in the NHL with my brother, so that was awesome.”

“I think it means a lot,” added Gulutzan, regarding the chance for a young guy to get some NHL experience. “Without getting into specifics, Joe (Nieuwendyk) can get a look at some guys before they have to hit July 1 free agency and they kind of get a gauge at where some of their players are at. You can get a little bit of a gauge from a couple of games and I think that helps the organization. And the player, too, knows what he has to do moving forward now to make the big club. Any time they can get that sort of experience, it helps clarify in their mind and our minds where these players belong.”

With the possibility that veteran Sheldon Souray, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, might not return next year, there will likely be at least one roster spot available on the blueline next season for one of the younger players to seize. And while Benn will be battling for a job with highly-touted prospects like Brenden Dillon, who made his NHL debut in that final game and looked quite good, and possibly 2011 first-round draft choice Jamie Oleksiak, he isn’t concerned about his competition.

“There’s a bunch of good players here – you’ve got Dillon, you’ve got Oleksiak coming up,” shrugged Benn, a native of Victoria, B.C. “I’m aware of who’s coming, but I can’t really worry about that, I’ve just got to do my thing, work hard and see what happens.”

Knowing him pretty well, Gulutzan believes Benn will indeed be in the mix for a roster spot when training camp rolls around in September.

“I’ve watched him a lot, and I will say that he needs a chance to play at the NHL level to see what he can really do, but the attributes are there,” Gulutzan said. “He has size enough to play at this level, and his skating ability is good enough to play at this level, but at some point, you have to see if you can. The more he can be around here, the better, and then we’ll see what happens.”

All the elder Benn wants is the opportunity to show he is more than just Jamie’s older brother, and he’s already begun to demonstrate that.

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