Joey Benik shined among the stars.
The former Penticton Vee returned to the South Okanagan Events Centre for the first time since 2012 and led all Canucks Young Stars Classic scorers with seven points in three games. Benik, an Edmonton Oilers prospect, capped off the tournament with a goal and three points in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets Monday morning. That helped the Oilers go 3-0.
“It was good. I’ve said it earlier, coming off a long summer guys are getting really excited, competitive,” he said. “I think it’s gone well. They put me in a good spot to have success. I have obviously capitalized on the chances that I’ve had. It’s been a fun weekend.”
In two of the three games Benik played, he was alongside Drake Caggiula and Jesse Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Benik said it was awesome to play with those two.
“The past four years I have been playing against Drake, (I) resented playing against him,” said Benik, who finished with four goals on five shots during the Young Stars Classic. “He’s a strong forward. He’s quick, has a lot of skill out there. To play on a line with him is obviously a lot of fun. You look at Jesse, he’s got the whole package. He’s big (listed at six-foot-three, 208-pounds), he’s strong, he can make plays. He’s smart with the puck. He’s defensive, he’s got it all. Having the opportunity to play with both of those guys … has been good for me.”
There was no adjustment for Benik with the highly skilled pair.
He used his speed and smarts to blend in. Benik said moving up from level to level, guys tend to be bigger, faster and smarter. The Andover, Minn., product said in some aspects it almost gets easier because the players are that much better. Following the win over the Jets, Condors coach Gerry Fleming said the trio sees the ice well and used their skill to execute.
“They kept the game simple. They just executed simple plays,” he said.
Fleming said Benik kept his feet moving and used his vision to make nice plays.
“He took the puck to the net. Did all the things we expected him to do,” he said.
After signing with the Oilers, Benik watch four games and played in four and said that experience helped him. It allowed him to learn the systems. That gave Benik, listed at five-foot-10, 175 pounds, a comfort level. It also didn’t hurt that he was playing in a familiar venue.
“Coming back to the SOEC was awesome,” he said. “Just for comfort level wise, it was that much higher for me.”
He also appreciated the cheers from the crowd. Benik took in the Vancouver Canucks game against Winnipeg, which featured his former Vees teammates Michael Garteig and Troy Stecher. He watched as some of the crowd went crazy when Stecher’s name was announced for an assist. “It’s good that they still kind of remember us, show that support,” said Benik.