By Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Before Tyler Seguin joined the Dallas Stars, he watched video after video of Jamie Benn’s goals. With two full seasons of experience setting Benn up, the rest of the NHL is watching them put on a show.
Months after Benn won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer, he and Seguin finished October 1-2 in points. Benn, who had 17 points on nine goals and eight assists in his first 11 games, has taken the first step to being the first back-to-back Art Ross winner since Jaromir Jagr did it three times in a row from 1998-99 through 2000-2001.
“I always knew he had the capability of doing it,” Stars defenceman Jordie Benn said of his brother. “I just didn’t know how good he could get, and I don’t think he knew it either. Obviously being a veteran now and being in the league for a couple years now that he realizes where he can go with his talents, and he’s obviously taken the bull by the horns.”
Benn is hockey’s version of a bull: big, strong and powerful but with the skill to produce at a high level. At six-foot-two and 210 pounds, the 26-year-old has a physical edge that few stud players of his calibre possess.
Sidney Crosby, a teammate of Benn’s for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the Stars captain “the total package.”
“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got a great shot,” Crosby said. “He can make plays, make little passes. He’s a good playmaker. He can really play any type of game, whether it’s a skill game or more of a grittier game.”
Benn enjoyed something of an international coming-out party in Sochi when he was one of Canada’s best forwards. But he was just under a point-a-game player in three previous years before breaking out with 87 last season.
The Victoria native credited teammates, and especially Seguin, for capturing the Art Ross Trophy. Chemistry is one thing, but Benn also has the knack around the net he considers important when trying to score in an increasingly stingy league.
“Not too many players can be like (Alex) Ovechkin and just let that one-(timer) go from the half wall,” said Benn, who was named the NHL’s first star of the month for October. “I think the closer you are to the net, it’s probably going to be easier.”
Benn can go to the net with the best and biggest of them but also has the kind of quick release that Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Roman Polak said bears watching. Polak said the only way to contain Benn is to give him as little room as possible.
To combat that, Benn plays well without much room and can wreak havoc in crowds. The Leafs’ Mike Babcock enjoyed seeing that at the Olympics.
“I’m a big fan of him because he’s got some nastiness to him,” Babcock said. “He has fun playing the game, he’s not scared of any situation. I like good pros that love being a good pro. He loves to score, loves to check, he can play any way you want.”
The way Benn wants to play this season is defensive, with a focus on his own end and a desire to turn that into offence. Coach Lindy Ruff has stressed the Stars playing as five-man units, and the result has been a high-powered offence and a 9-2-0 start.
Benn and Seguin, who put up 16 points in the first 11 games, are at the forefront of that success.
“Jamie and I complement each other, and we find ways to get goals,” Seguin said. “Our biggest thing this year has been finding ways to be good in our own end. That’s been better than last year, and that’s why we’re producing, as well.”
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