Three Dallas Stars, forward Jamie Benn (Canada), goaltender Kari Lehtonen (Finland) and forward Valeri Nichushkin (Russia) have each been selected by their respective country to participate at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which will take place in Sochi, Russia from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23.
“The Dallas Stars are extremely proud of Jamie, Kari and Valeri for being selected to participate at the Olympic Games,” said Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill. “It is a tremendous honor to represent one’s country at the highest international stage and their experience at the Games will be invaluable for our own team as we approach the most competitive portion of our season.”
Benn will be representing Canada for the third time on the international stage and for the first time at the Olympic Games. The Victoria, B.C. native earned a gold medal for Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships posting six points (4-2=6) in six games at the tournament. He also represented his home country at the 2012 World Championships where he collected five points (3-2=5), including a game-winning goal in his eight contests with the team.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward leads Dallas this season with 22 assists and ranks second on the Stars in points and goals (15-22=37) in 42 games. The 24-year-old is in his fifth NHL season, all as a member of the Stars, and has skated in 305 career NHL games, posting 230 points (97-133=230), 220 penalty minutes and 17 game-winning goals. Selected by Dallas as their fifth-round selection (129th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft, Benn was appointed the sixth captain in Dallas Stars history on Sept. 19, 2013.
Lehtonen is representing Finland for the ninth time in international competition and the first time at the Olympic level. The Helsinki, Finland native has three appearances at the World Junior Championships (2001, 2002, 2003) earning a silver medal in 2001, as well as a bronze medal in 2003. He also captured the silver medal at the 2007 World Championships and participated again in the competition in 2012.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound goaltender has skated in 34 games for Dallas this season, posting a 16-10-7 record with a 2.68 goals against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%) with one shutout. Lehtonen’s 197 career NHL victories is second only to Mikka Kiprussoff (319) among goaltenders born in Finland. Originally selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round (2nd overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft, the 30-year-old was acquired by Dallas from Atlanta in exchange for Ivan Vishnevskiy and the Stars’ 2010 fourth-round pick on Feb. 9, 2010.
Nichushkin (pronounced knee-CHOOSH-kihn) is representing Russia for the first time at the Olympic Games and for the sixth time overall in international play. The native of Chelyabinsk, Russia scored the game-winning goal for Russia in overtime against Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championships to help his country capture the gold medal.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward is tied for third among all Dallas Stars with 22 points (9-13=22) and leads the club with a plus-13 rating in 41 games played for the club. The 18-year-old was Dallas’ first-round selection (10th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Dallas Stars Head Coach Lindy Ruff will serve as an associate coach for Team Canada. Ruff, 53, was an associate coach for Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, winning gold. He was Canada’s head coach at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Switzerland, winning a silver medal, and at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The native of Warburg, Atla., is in his first season as head coach of the Stars and has guided the team to a 20-15-7 record through 42 games.