Young Benson to light up Pacific Coliseum with Giants
We look at five other great 15-year-olds who played for Vancouver
Prized prospect Tyler Benson is slated to make his debut with the Vancouver Giants Saturday when the Tri-City Americans come to the Pacific Coliseum.
Benson, 15, a left-winger who was the top pick in last May’s WHL bantam draft, can play five games with the Giants as an underage call-up until his midget team, at Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Academy, has finished its playoffs. After that, he can be a full-time Giant.
With that in mind, Steve Ewen offers his five most memorable underage efforts in franchise history.
Vancouver lost 4-3 in overtime Monday in Everett, Wash. The 8-11-2-1 Giants’ next game is Friday against Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Evander Kane, 2006-07
Coach Don Hay had enough trust in the left-winger that he sat veteran forward Tim Kraus in favour of a 15-year-old Kane in Vancouver’s 3-1 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers in the 2007 Memorial Cup finale before a sellout crowd of 16,281 at the Pacific Coliseum on May 27 that year. Kane also got the call ahead of Kraus in an 8-1 triumph over the Plymouth Whalers in the national tournament’s semifinals two days earlier.
Kane received third-line minutes in the two games, and had an assist in the Plymouth encounter.
The Vancouver native, the 19th overall pick by the Giants in the 2006 bantam draft, played eight regular season games with the Giants that Memorial Cup campaign, and scored his first goal in final one. He also played five WHL playoff games. He had no points in that stint.
Kane, 22 now, is in his fifth NHL season with Winnipeg Jets.
James Henry, 2006-07
Henry arguably had the best debut for a 15-year-old in Giants history, picking up third-star status for his all-around effort in a 3-0 road win over the Kelowna Rockets on Feb. 28, 2007. He had no points in the tilt. Blaine Neufeld recorded the shutout with 10 saves.
Henry, a Winnipeg native, was a ninth-round pick in 2006, but that was in part because most WHL teams believed he was going to go to the college route.
Hay has suggested that Henry played his best games against Kelowna and it was because of that debut. That was the only game he played that year, but he went on to play 281 games with the club before being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors in his over-age season in 2011-12.
Henry, 22, is now a rookie forward with the ECHL Stockton (Calif.) Thunder.
Lance Bouma, 2005-06
Bouma was held off the scoresheet in his first Giants game, but three nights later, on Feb. 10, 2006, he had one goal and one assist and earned first-star status in a 4-2 win over the Rockets at the Coliseum.
In five games that season as an underage call-up, Bouma had one goal and three assists.
Bouma, a Provost, Alta., native, was Vancouver’s second-round pick in the 2005 draft.
He missed most of last season with injury but now the 23-year-old a regular forward with the Calgary Flames.
Gilbert Brule, 2002-03
Benson marks the second player the Giants have picked first overall in their history. Gilbert Brule, in 2002, was the first.
Like the North Vancouver bred Brule, Benson will wear jersey No. 17 with the Giants. The legendary Gordie Howe, who is a minority owner in the Giants, happens to be on hand to drop the puck Saturday and one of his semi-annual visits to the Coliseum also came for Brule’s first game, an 8-5 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Feb. 18, 2003.
Brule was held off the scoresheet that night. It was his only regular season game with Vancouver that season. He did play in the playoffs and had one goal in a four-game loss to the Rockets.
Brule, 26, is now with the Portland Pirates, Phoenix’s farm team in the AHL.
Payton Lee, 2011-12
Vancouver starter Adam Morrison suffered an undisclosed injury the week before and Hay opted to pitch Lee instead of incumbent backup Jackson Whistle in a Jan. 20, 2012, tilt against the Everett Silvertips at the Pacific Coliseum. Lee responded by making 19 stops in a 4-3 triumph.
Lee got three starts prior to Morrison’s return and wound up 2-1, with a 3.38 goals against and a .885 save percentage.
Lee, who’s from Cranbrook, was a second-round pick of the Giants in 2011 and is currently their starting goalie.
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