Patrick Sharp (left) and Corey Perry (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
Canada could be in need of a replacement for Jamie Benn at the World Cup if the Stars captain’s “core muscle injury” isn’t healed in time for the tournament. Luckily, Canadian GM Doug Armstrong has five great candidates at his disposal.
Jamie Benn’s enormous eight-year contract extension with the Stars was the biggest news Friday, but it wasn’t the only news concerning the Dallas captain. Earlier in the day, the Stars announced that Benn had gone under the knife to repair a “core muscle injury” that could see him sidelined from the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
With Benn potentially on the shelf for the tournament, Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong will have to get to work on preparing for the worst-case scenario: a Canadian squad that won’t include one of the game’s best scorers.
Benn, 26, is the second-highest scoring player over the past three seasons, behind only Canadian teammate Sidney Crosby, and without Benn in the lineup Canada is going to have a massive hole to fill on the wing. And though it’s no certainty that Benn will miss the tournament — he’s to be reevaluated in six weeks, at which point the Stars will determine his status for the World Cup — Armstrong’s best bet is to have a list of names prepared should he need to replace Benn on the wing.
Here are five players Armstrong should consider:
5. Wayne Simmonds, RW
The Philadelphia Flyers winger may not be the first name that comes to mind when Team Canada comes to mind, but Simmonds would, at the very least, replace the physical aspect of Benn’s game while providing some of the scoring punch.
Over the past two seasons, Simmonds, 27, ranks eighth among Canadian forwards in goal scoring with 60 tallies. Simmonds has been a continual threat for 30 goals over the past three seasons in Philadelphia, and eclipsed the 30-goal mark in 2015-16 with 32 tallies. Since joining the Flyers in 2011-12, only fifteen players have scored more goals than Simmonds.
As for past experience with the national team, Simmonds represented, and won gold, at the 2008 World Junior Championship. He also suited up for Canada at the 2013 World Championship, scoring once in eight games.
4. Mark Stone, RW
Stone’s defensive game is underrated and the same goes for his offensive ability. When it comes to a sleeper pick to replace Benn, Stone might be the best bet.
At 24, Stone only barely aged out of being able to compete for the North American squad at the World Cup, and that could end up being to Canada’s benefit should Benn not be able to go at the tournament. Few players available to Armstrong would provide the defensive acumen that Stone can. Over the past two years, Stone has registered 128 takeaways, the most of any Canadian forward in the NHL. The next closest player? Carolina’s Jeff Skinner with 77.
None of this is to mention that Stone continues to improve offensively, he could be a 30-goal scorer by the time he’s 25. He has 49 goals and 125 points in 155 games over the past two seasons.
In Stone’s last appearance on the international stage, he notched four goals and 10 points in 10 games as Canada won gold at the 2016 World Championship.
3. Patrick Sharp, LW
Sharp’s not a perfect fit to replace Benn’s skill set, but Sharp, like Benn, is a left winger. What makes Sharp intriguing is that he’s versatile, much in the same way Stone is, but with more of a veteran presence and all the speed to keep up with the world’s best.
Though he didn’t do it often in Dallas this past season, Sharp was at times a penalty killer in Chicago, and he showed some flare for it during his time with the Blackhawks. And if counterattacking on the penalty kill is what Team Canada wants, Sharp can offer that. That’s not to mention that as a second-unit power play specialist, you could do much worse than having Sharp’s shot.
The 34-year-old Sharp has previously represented Canada at two World Championships and the 2014 Olympics. In Sochi, Sharp scored once in five games, but played sparingly.
2. Taylor Hall, LW
The New Jersey Devils winger — how weird does that sound? — probably could have made the roster before Benn’s injury put his participation into question, but should Benn not be able to suit up for Canada, it’d be hard to pass up the chance to bring Hall aboard for the tournament.
Over the past three years, Hall has notched 67 goals and 183 points, and while that may pale in comparison to Benn’s 110 tallies and 255 points, it’s the second-most points of the Canadian wingers not already on the roster. Hall brings more than just scoring ability, though. His speed is incredible and he has the ability to break a game wide open.
Hall has represented Canada at the past two World Championships and he’s played remarkably, too. In 20 games, Hall has registered 13 goals and 21 points. Being more than a point per game player on the international stage is no easy feat, and selected Hall to replace Benn could lessen the blow.
1. Corey Perry, RW
Perry captained Canada at the 2016 World Championship, scored four goals and nine points in 10 games and somehow still didn’t find himself on the Canadian roster for the World Cup. It’d be awful news should Benn be out for the tournament, but having Perry in his place might be the perfect answer.
Though he’s not a natural fit to replace Benn on the left wing, Perry has all the goal scoring ability. Benn and Perry are tied among Canadian players over the past three seasons with 110 goals apiece, and while Benn may have more natural playmaking ability, few boast the natural goal scoring ability Perry does. Like Benn, Perry won’t shy away from getting his nose dirty to knock the puck home.
The biggest difference between Perry and Benn is that the former is a bit more reliable defensively, but with the amount of talent Canada will have top-to-bottom — especially on the blueline — the slight drop off between the two shouldn’t be the least bit concerning. And really, Benn is on the Canadian roster for his scoring ability and Perry presents the best opportunity to replace that.
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