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Benson won't make a special application to join Giants early

The Canadian Press

5/14/2013 7:59:04 PM

VANCOUVER -- Tyler Benson did not want to be a special case.

So the WHL's top 2013 bantam draft pick will wait a season before joining the Vancouver Giants on a permanent basis.

Canadian major junior rules require a player to be at least 16 before joining a team in the WHL, QMJHL or OHL full-time. Exceptions are made in cases of players with rare talent after teams, in conjunction with parents, make special-status applications.

"We didn't really think about it," said Benson, 15, who signed a WHL player contract with the Giants on Tuesday and was introduced to Vancouver media. "People asked me if I was (going to), but our family decided I need to still play midget and stay home for another year."

Benson will play midget in his hometown of Edmonton next season.

Former and current OHLers John Tavares, now an NHL most valuable player candidate with the New York Islanders, Connor McDavid and defenceman Sean Day have played in the league as 15-year-olds.

In 2012-13, Benson broke an Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League single-season points record as he produced 57 goals and 89 assists in only 33 games with the South Side Athletic Club's Southgate Lions in Edmonton. The Lions won Alberta and Western Canadian championships.

He broke the AMBHL record for the most points in a season tallying 146 points (57 goals, 89 assists) in 33 games. He broke the previous mark of 131 points set by Portland Winter Hawks sniper Ty Rattie in 2007-08, when he was with a club based in Airdrie, Alta.

The gaudy numbers surpassed had many observers wondering whether he would try to move up to major junior early. But Giants general manager Scott Bonner said Benson has made the right decision.

"(Players) should stay at home at 15," said Bonner. "They don't have to rush here. Sixteen is more than young enough to play at our level. They're going to have a two (or) three-year window. In (Benson's) case, if he develops, he'll be here for a couple seasons and then move on to pro."

By staying home, Bonner added, Benson can possibly grow an inch or two, put on 10 pounds and "just be a kid." He can also benefit from playing for the South Side Athletic Club, a very good organization, in such events as the Mac's major midget tournament in Calgary.

"That midget year is a very influential year in your life," said Bonner, a former WHL player.

"I'd love to see him play if he's ready, but I don't make that decision," said Vancouver coach Don Hay. "There's a lot of things that go into that decision."

When Benson does join the Giants, Bonner expects him to be a building block for a Giants squad that hopes to host the 2016 Memorial Cup, pending the result of its application to the WHL later this year.

"I've watched him play probably close to 20 times this year, and he was consistent every game," said Bonner. "He works hard. Obviously, his stats speak for themselves, but his attitude is second to none."

The GM likened Benson's hard, physical style to former Giant Brendan Gallagher, who excelled in his rookie season with the Montreal Canadiens and is in the running for NHL rookie of the year honours.

"Obviously, (Gallagher) didn't have (Benson's) size," said Bonner. "But I found (Benson) played the game with a level of enthusiasm that was unmatched. And to break a guy like Ty Rattie's longstanding record is impressive."

Bonner said Benson will still play some games with the Giants this season. He is eligible to play at least five games during the regular season and can join the Giants full-time after his midget season concludes. The WHL club can also call him up if players are away at the world junior tournament, and those games will not count against the five-game limit.

"I'd like to play a few games," said Benson. "It's up to our owners and coaches, I guess."

He will also attend Vancouver's training camp and play exhibition games. Bonner said coaches might regret the decision not to have him play the full-season, but the GM noted the careers of NHL stars like Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, and Brendan Gallagher were not harmed by playing an extra year of midget.

"In time, you get there," said Bonner.

Meanwhile, the Giants announced that entertainment manager Bruce Allen has become a part owner. Allen represents such Canadian music stars as Bryan Adams, Martina McBride, Anne Murray, Jann Arden and Michael Buble, who is also a Giants minority owner. Allen has also organized a number of events.

Majority owner Ron Toigo said the club will get Allen to assist with its bids to host 2016 Memorial Cup and a future world junior tournament.

"It's all about entertainment, and there's no better guy in the entertainment business than Bruce Allen," said Toigo.

Notes--The Giants' other owners include hockey icons Gordie Howe and Pat Quinn, chartered accountant Sultan Thiara, and Lewis Buble, the pop singer's father. ... Vancouver's other 2013 first-round choice, defenceman Matt Barberis of Surrey, B.C., and rearguard Ryely McKinstry of Calgary, a second-round choice, also signed WHL contracts Tuesday.