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Prep Watch: Small town hound

Brent Benson will likely join the WHL's Saskatoon Blades for the 2009-10 season.

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Brent Benson will likely join the WHL's Saskatoon Blades for the 2009-10 season.

There’s something about small towns that enable them to churn out elite hockey players and center Brent Benson is one of the latest examples to confirm that truth.

Growing up in Weyburn, Sask., Benson parlayed his considerable skills into a place on the Notre Dame Hounds midget triple-A team, the same squad that has produced NHLers such as Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Wendel Clark, not to mention up-and-comers Brandon Gormley and Sean Couturier.

For Benson, the choice was fairly easy: Notre Dame is in Wilcox, just 80 kilometers from Weyburn, plus buddies such as Justin Sefton, Zach Hodder and Jaden Schwartz were also Hounds.

“It’s such a well-known hockey-producing school and team,” Benson said. “You get to spend a lot of time with your team and there’s the availability of the facilities.”

Not only is there the Notre Dame ice and gym, but the town rink is available, too. Benson said he and his linemates get together twice a week to play shinny and improve their chemistry. Obviously, it’s been working. Benson, despite being a rookie, ranks seventh in Saskatchewan midget scoring, with 51 points in 36 games. Three of his 15 goals have come shorthanded.

“Brent brings a positive frame of mind and lots of energy,” said Del Pedrick, coach of the Hounds. “He’s pretty creative with the puck, great on faceoffs and has a little bit of versatility.”

When asked which NHLer he might compare to style-wise, Pedrick was high in his praise.

“Maybe a combination of Jarome Iginla and Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators,” he noted. “He has the grit and leadership, the determination.”

And despite being just 15 years old, Benson has no problem taking on that leadership role either now or in the near future, when he’ll join the Western League’s Saskatoon Blades full-time (he had a brief call-up this year).

“Hockey is more than just on-ice,” Benson said. “You’ve got to be a good person off the ice, too.”

On ice, the Hounds are good, however. The team has a firm grip on first place in the league with just a handful of games to go and has lost just six games in regulation through 41 matches. And though the world of midget hockey is often ruled by a few elite players, Pedrick said Benson has actually let him ice a more balanced lineup.

“It’s a challenge to find someone who works harder than him,” Pedrick said. “He generates regardless of his linemates. In fact, we’ve gone from a two-line team to a four-line team this year. We have a lot of depth.”

Benson is particularly proud of his two-way game and cites puck control and vision as two of his strengths.

“I can make the simple play,” he offered.

Benson still would like to work on the subtleties of his game, getting better on special teams and nailing down details, but he has certainly put in his time so far in his hockey career. In fact, growing up in Weyburn, there wasn’t a lot else to do but strap on the skates and play shinny with the boys.

When he was at home, there was always the backyard rink to get out and skate on. Sometimes Benson would just have fun by himself, sometimes his dad would throw passes to him or help him with drills, and sometimes his mom would come out for a scrimmage. He’d go easy on mom, though, right?

“No,” Benson laughed. “She likes to play rough.”

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.

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