As the dawn of the 2012-13 NCAA men's ice hockey season draws near, Tradition of Excellence will be profiling one incoming player from each WCHA team that fans can expect to have an instant impact on their team and the league. First in the chamber is St. Cloud State incoming freshman Joey Benik.
Joey Benik, F, St. Cloud State
Vitals: 5'10" - 170 lbs - 1/26/1992
Hometown: Andover, MN
Previous Team: Penticton Vees (BCHL)
SCSU heads into the season having lost four of its top six point producing forwards from a year ago, as well as a three-year starter in goal in Mike Lee, who opted to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes. Lee's backup Ryan Faragher and most of the Husky defense returns intact, and boosting optimism in St. Cloud is the return of leading scorer Ben Hanowski and Drew LeBlanc, who used a medical redshirt to gain a fifth season of eligibility. So while SCSU will count on their two high-end forwards and a pair of slick, puck-moving defensemen (Nick Jensen, Andrew Prochno) to lead their offensive attack, scoring depth could be a concern heading into the 2012-13 campaign. Expect incoming freshman Joey Benik to help ease those concerns.
In 2009-10 Joey Benik wrapped up a stellar high school career by leading the state of Minnesota with 53 goals and 90 points before heading to Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League. In his first season with the Vees (2010-11), he racked up 56 points in 60 games, including a team leading 30 goals. But it was this past season that saw Benik truly blossom into much more than just a goal scoring threat.
In 2011-12, Benik displayed a well-rounded and versatile game that, according to Vee's assistant coach Steve Cawley, was the product of a relentless work ethic and dedication to developing "a fantastic two-way game." Benik recorded a 30 goal, 66 assist campaign while routinely being assigned with shutting down the opposing team's top line. He was also a staple on the Vees' powerplay and penalty kill units.
He paced the Vees with 96 points (second overall in the BCHL), and he led Penticton to the RBC Cup (Canadian Junior A national championship) by scoring the game winning goal with less than a minute left in the championship game.
Cawley described Benik as a very strong, very quick player with very good vision who should be able to make a swift transition to the college game. His goal scoring ability, offensive instincts, and development into a complete, three-zone hockey player should give St. Cloud State a more than capable scoring threat who can provide offensive depth to the Husky lineup.