Joey Benik's game winning power-play goal, with 51 seconds remaining, sank the upset hopes of the Woodstock Slammers and gave the Penticton Vees the Royal Bank Cup Championship with the 4-3 win.
The goal capped a wonderful ride for the Minnesota Junior Hockey League veteran from St. Francis. The St. Cloud State prospect has made a name for himself in Canada with a total of 113 points (38g, 75a in 75 games) to go along with the RBC game winner.
What does Benik's ride tell American prospects? The British Columbia Hockey League is the best league in the ten-league Canadian Junior Hockey League, but not nearly as dominating as the experts were thinking. Leagues like the Maritimes, Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, Alberta, and Saskatchewan can also offer programs that often exceed USA Hockey Tier I & II standards with the added benefit of excellent exposure.
This statement may get me kicked around here in the United States, but playing in Canada has not hurt Benik, and most of the other players on his team, from obtaining NCAA Div. I commitments. In reality, these kids certainly have a leg up on all but one of the twelve players that have aged out of the Bismarck Bobcats organization.
What does this all mean? I'd love to see the developmental systems in Canada and United States come together. It is never going to happen officially, but in the eyes of the players and colleges, it already has. The success of the Vees, a team with a heavy dose of American talent, has got the attention of the other 130+ CJHL teams. As a result, the North American Hockey League should expect a battle in the retention of their top veterans and in the recruiting war for new prospects.
What do you think?