Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dallas Stars GM Has High Praise For Benn/Rockets/WHL

I promised the transcript of this interview two weeks ago, but finally post it tonight. This is the conversation I had with Dallas Stars GM Les Jackson on prospect Jamie Benn. (For the record - Jackson is the Stars co-gm).

What do you think of Jamie Benn's second season in the WHL?

"Jamie has done exceptionally well since we evaluated him and drafted him out of the BC junior league. I think he's a good example of lots of kids in our country that are in off the road areas that their is talent there and luckily for us Dennis Holland, one of our scouts who lives in Vernon, watched him. Getting him out of that league and getting him into Kelowna was a huge step for him. It was an opportunity for him to go to the best league below the NHL at the amateur level and learn his trade, and I think the guys in Kelowna have done a great job with him. He's made some great steps and I think this year going to the World Juniors was just another feather in his cap".

Why did it take him so long to move to the WHL, when he clearly had the ability prior to turning 18?

"I think is his heart he wanted to go to college, and I think that happens with a lot of young kids, but when he realized that he was drafted and we met with him and said you have a great opportunity to be a pro and we feel that the best step for you is to go to the Western Hockey League. Bruce (Hamilton) and the guys in Kelowna gave him a great opportunity and the tradition with the team is winning, they have a great atmosphere for development, so I think we earned his trust and our history and experience is that the Western Hockey League is good for you".

How close is he to playing in the NHL?

"Anyone who can skate can play in the NHL, but it's not always the right place to put players. The bottom line is you need to win games and you need to put your players in areas where they can succeed. Jamie from a talent standpoint can play in the NHL, but maturity wise and experience wise, it wasn't the right place for him. The right place for him was in Kelowna, and I think that is a common mistake some of us in pro make. In Jamie's situation he was really one year out of tier two when we drafted him, so if we don't bring him along and put him in the right place to succeed, shame on us".

What do you like about him?

"He has lots of natural ability. He has great hands, great instincts for the game. He's like any young prospect, their are some holes in his game but they all come from learning and getting the opportunity to play, and play through those mistakes and get a coach who they can trust and help them through."

A 5th round NHL draft pick from 2007, a steal now that you've seen him develop over the last few years?

"If we knew how good he was going to be, we would have taken him earlier. That's just the way the draft goes. Their are lots of good players playing in areas of hockey that are not that convenient to get too, and even sometimes the BC junior league is off the road, and if you don't spend your time in there you won't find these guys, and lucky for us we happened to be there to see him and were one of the lucky ones to get him (in the draft) ."

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