As a sign of how much the Vancouver Canucks value home-province defenceman Jordie Benn’s veteran status in the NHL, the Canucks newcomer was placed in the centre of the circle to lead the warm-down drills following the training camp session Friday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“It was a Day 1 grind … a work-boot kind of day,” said Benn.
“I’m here to help the young guys and lead.”
The Benn backstory, meanwhile, is not lost on anyone in Canucks training camp. Undrafted and unheralded out of the Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League, Benn has managed to forge an NHL career of 473 games with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens.
“He’s an inspiring player,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green.
“He’s a durable guy with a strong understanding of what it takes.”
Benn’s journey has taken the 32-year-old back home in many ways.
“I’ve definitely come full circle from starting my pro career in this building with the [ECHL Victoria] Salmon Kings,” said the Central Saanich product.
“And now to put on a Canucks jersey here, having grown up as a huge fan of the team and always keeping track of them as a kid, is awesome. It’s almost surreal.”
The veteran came to the Canucks this summer as a free-agent signing from the Canadiens.
With the addition also of free-agent Tyler Myers, and the prospective emergence of 2018 first-round draft pick and rookie Quinn Hughes, this will be a revamped Canucks blue line.
There is talk of pairing Benn with returnee Troy Stecher, which would be fine by both.
“[Benn] is a vocal guy who plays hard,” said Stecher.
“It may allow me to be a rover and jump up more into the play. But it’s early yet and [pairings] could change.”
Chris Tanev is another returning blue-liner who is happy to see Benn in the fold.
“[Benn] has played in the league a while,” said Tanev.
“He is strong defensively but is more skilled than everyone thinks.”
Canucks bench boss Green also noted about Benn: “Jordie brings a lot of different things to our team that will help our young guys. And not just in his own end. Jordie has a heavy shot and a sneaky offensive game.”
Benn, however, is cautious about expressing any offensive yearnings. He knows how his bread is buttered and how to keep within himself as a player.
“I know how I’ve stayed in this league and defence is going to do that for me,” he said.
Benn’s durability was also stressed. He only missed six games the past two seasons in Montreal.
“It’s important to stay healthy and Jordie has shown that,” said Tanev, who knows all about not being healthy, after breaking legs in back-to-back seasons.
As for back-end offence, it might be better to look for that from Tanev and Hughes, who are mobile blue-liners.
“We can both move well and will read well off each other,” said Tanev, of the possible pairing.
Hughes certainly has big aspirations: “The Calder Trophy [for NHL rookie of the year] is a goal,” he said.
He could be battling his own brother, forward and 2019 NHL top overall draft selection Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils, for the rookie prize.
“He’s doing his thing and I’m doing mine,” said Quinn Hughes.
“I’m not worrying about him. I’m just trying to get better.”
Although not quite on Benn’s scale, this weekend also represents a bit of a homecoming for Hughes. Quinn and Jack Hughes, stars of the silver-medallist U.S. team, were based in Victoria at the Memorial Centre for Pool B of the 2019 IIHF world junior championship tournament last winter.
“It’s weird. I thought about that a lot coming into training camp here,” said Quinn Hughes.
What would be even cooler for him is if the new-look Canucks blue line helps lead the team into the NHL playoffs next spring for the first time in five seasons.
“This is the most excited I’ve seen the team in training camp,” said Tanev. “The expectations are to make the playoffs.”
With a remade blue line giving a little push from behind.
Canucks training camp continues today 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with a scrimmage at 10 a.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., with a scrimmage at 11:10 a.m., all at the Memorial Centre. Admission is $5 with proceeds going to charity. The preseason game Monday evening against the Calgary Flames on Blanshard is sold out.