Stars' Benn steps up game

(L-R) Dallas Stars defenceman Trevor Daley, left wing Jamie Benn and defenceman Adam Pardy...

(L-R) Dallas Stars defenceman Trevor Daley, left wing Jamie Benn and defenceman Adam Pardy celebrate Benn's goal against the Calgary Flames during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas March 24, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

For Jamie Benn, it’s too early to start talking Olympics.

But at this rate, the Dallas Stars winger will definitely be in the conversation if the NHL decides to participate in the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Benn, 22, has come into his own this season, and is on the road to becoming one of the league’s next big stars.

“He’s starting to figure out how good he’s going to be, but he’s still on the cautious side of it,” said Stars winger Steve Ott. “He’s going to be a phenomenal, all-star player for his entire career. What he’s doing now, leading a team, putting them on his back on a nightly basis for the entire season and battling through the injuries he’s had to battle through, has proven how good he’s going to be.

“You can say we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. There is so much buried beneath the waters that you’re going to see with Jamie Benn.”

Heading into Wednesday’s contest against the Oilers, Benn had 26 goals and 35 assists for 61 points in 65 games this season.

He’s currently second in team scoring behind Loui Eriksson, who has 68 points in 76 games on the year.

Selected in the fifth round — 129th overall — of the 2007 NHL Draft, Benn is in his third year with the Stars and, early in the season, became the youngest player in team history to reach the 100-point plateau.

“He will be on that Canadian team (in 2014), I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll be there,” Ott said. “He’s going to be that dominant in the next couple of years. I’m pretty lucky to be on a line with him, because I know how talented, how strong and how good of a player he’s going to be.”

Benn’s emergence with the Stars allowed the club to make James Neal expendable last season, trading the talented winger to the Pittsburgh Penguins just prior to the deadline.

Heading into this year, Benn knew he would be counted on more than in the past, and has not disappointed.

“I think this summer, knowing that we weren’t going to have James Neal and we lost Brad Richards, it’s something I thought about and I knew I was going to have to step up,” Benn said. “I think I’ve been able to step up as a player and a leader this year. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaches for giving me all the support.”

A Victoria product, Benn was selected to take part in his first All-Star game this season, winning the accuracy shooting event during the skills competition.

He represents what could be a changing of the guard for Canada’s upcoming entry into the Olympic Games, although for the moment, Benn is preoccupied with the Stars fate, trying to cling to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“I think maybe in the future I’ll think about it a little bit more, but for now it’s all about the Stars and trying to get into the playoffs,” Benn said. “It would be pretty cool, there is nothing better than representing your country in a big tournament like the Olympics and the world juniors or even the world championships.

“It’s definitely an honour and it’s pretty cool to play for your country. It’s a pretty big deal for Canadians. I had a chance to do it at the world juniors and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. It was one of the best times in my life.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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