This is a regular Tuesday feature on Intermission Report.
Despite being an All-Star, Jamie Benn has managed to hide from the limelight the way many other young NHLers could not.
Playing hockey in Dallas, Texas, helps — the Stars are hoping to make a big impact on the ice this year, but coverage of its games remains fairly light. Benn has thrived in that atmosphere so far, but if his star keeps rising (pun totally intended), he’ll have to adjust to cameras and countless interviews being a more regular sort of thing.
The 23-year-old left wing has only gotten better since breaking into the league three years ago. He’s rapidly approaching the point-per-game mark (0.89 in 2011-12 according to The Hockey News) and has become a potential franchise player in the wake of Brad Richards’s departure. Now that the Stars have traded Mike Ribeiro, his responsibilities may likely stretch to top PP unit as well (that is, if that spot doesn’t go to newly signed Derek Roy).
Benn is an unsung hero most likely because of the fact that he’s still young and hasn’t exactly put up superstar numbers; indeed, he’s not overly flashy. You don’t read about him in the papers or see him on highlight reels very often. But he is becoming increasingly reliable, and he’s a crucial piece to the Stars’ success. He’s improved every year in points since his rookie season (45 in 2009-10; 56 in 2010-11; 63 in 2011-12), and wowed fans and fellow NHLers alike during the skills competition in Ottawa last year during All-Star Weekend.
Last year he was third in even-strength points behind only Malkin, the Hart and Lindsay winner, and Jordan Eberle (against arguably tougher competition than Malkin). He also has a good defensive game, which he’s had to develop with the lack of a consistent physical presence on the Stars, as well as switching over to center for much of the 2011-12 season. Plus, he has size to go along with the skill at 6’2, 205 pounds. (Look here for a breakdown of stats involving Benn from Defending Big D.)
Moreover, the intangibles Benn brings are high. He’s a smart player, with plenty of focus and a humble attitude, and he doesn’t actively seek out the spotlight. Stars fans love him for his quiet leadership qualities and his passion to win, and our own Melissa Grissom of Keep Dallas Pesky pegs him as the next captain once Brendan Morrow retires.
Jamie Benn will be a star in every sense of the word soon enough, but for right now, he’s a relatively under-the-radar NHLer. Look for that to change next season.