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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 15:47

Newest Bronco will miss friends, extended family in Saskatoon

Written by  Brad Brown
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Being separated from a guaranteed shot at the Memorial Cup was among the lesser of Brent Benson’s concerns.
Being separated from his extended family was considerably tougher.

Benson, a natural centre, was traded Oct. 19 from the Memorial Cup-host Saskatoon Blades to the Swift Current Broncos in a swap of 19-year-olds for defenceman Graeme Craig.
Both players had skated at least 200 WHL games for their respective teams before the deal.
“(The Memorial Cup) is definitely part of it,” a subdued Benson said on the afternoon of the trade, “but I think the hardest thing for me was I would have been in my fourth year there and saying goodbye to all the boys on the team and my billets.
“They took me in as their own and it was really tough saying goodbye this morning. I couldn’t have asked for any better billets really.”
Benson joined the Blades full-time as a 16-year-old in 2009-10 and put up 104 points with Saskatoon — sixth-most of any Blade in his time there — but never lived up to the offensive expectations that typically come with being a sixth overall Bantam Draft pick.
For Swift Current head coach and general manager Mark Lamb, that’s painting too shallow a picture of the newest Bronco.
“The reason that we got Brent is for how hard he plays,” said Lamb. “We think he really fits our identity. His stats are alright but a lot of people are looking at his stats and thinking he can do a lot better. His stats are perfect for what we are.
“He’s going to eat up a lot of minutes, he’s going to play hard, he’s going to play for keeps and he fits our identity.
“When he’s doing all that he’s going to get numbers, he’s going to play with good players, he’s going to be a real responsible guy and it’s going to be a great fit for him.”
The trade followed Swift Current’s listless 3-1 home loss to the Everett Silvertips the night before. It also closely followed the surprise re-assignment of 16-year-old winger Dakota Odgers and gave the Broncos a 13th healthy forward.
Lamb said a deal with Saskatoon had been in the works for a week, part of his plan from the beginning to bring in a veteran forward who could take faceoffs, add top-six depth, kill penalties or mentor his younger forwards on an as-needed basis.
In the end he got two-thirds of what he wanted.
“In a perfect world I’d liked to have got Benson and kept Graeme Craig but they’re both two really good players and you have to give up something to get one of them,” said Lamb.
The third part of that equation was the butterfly effect of Craig’s departure.
With the Broncos down to six active defencemen, 17-year-old Bobby Zinkan drew into the lineup as a regular for the first time, something Lamb had talked openly about accomplishing since the start of the season.
Zinkan played sparingly Oct. 19 in the Broncos’ 2-1 win over the Blades — the first game for both teams since the trade — but drew more ice time Saturday against Tri-City and made his mark in the second period when he crushed Marcus Messier with a bone-rattling open-ice hit as the Americans forward crossed the Swift Current blue line.
A memorable start to be sure, though as the season rolls on Lamb expects Zinkan will become better known for making his mark on the scoresheet.
“I feel like I have a lot of pressure on me,” Zinkan conceded. “I really need to step up. This is a big opportunity for me and I need to capitalize on this one ... We could be having some trades for another D-man because we can’t go with six all year, but I’m just going to use my opportunity I have right now and get the best out of it.”

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