Lucas DeBenedet had a number of opportunities to pursue his hockey career at the Junior ‘A’ level.
But for a couple of reasons, the former International Falls Bronco chose to play close to home—and will be suiting up for the SIJHL’s Fort Frances Lakers for the 2013-14 campaign.
“I’ll be able to play with [former Bronco teammate] Mason Meyer again, who is someone that I had a lot of fun playing with in high school,” DeBenedet noted.
“Plus, I’ll be able to stay with my parents as I go to college in the Falls, which will be nice, as well,” he added.
After three years with the Broncos, the 18-year-old centre, who stands 5’8” and weighs 165 pounds, was the first off-season signing by the Lakers.
In his senior season, DeBenedet was one of the main offensive catalysts on the squad, notching 56 points in 25 games.
“My three years with the Broncos were a lot of fun,” he enthused.
“I became better friends with my teammates on the team, and I was able to play against a lot of good teams who have players that will be in the pros in a few years.
“My overall play improved a lot as well during those three years,” DeBenedet added. “But I felt that my stick-handling and my speed are what improved the most.”
It was during his junior season with the Broncos that DeBenedet first started playing on a regular basis with his friend, Meyer, who moved up to the Lakers last winter and was the team’s rookie-of-the-year.
“We actually played together for the first time in my sophomore season, and then that carried over into my junior year when he was a senior,” DeBenedet recalled.
“We just seem to have a very good connection out on the ice, and we just seem to know where the other guy is going to be,” he noted.
“It all works out nicely it seems.”
The International Falls’ pipeline is one the Lakers’ staff has tapped into for the past few seasons, with Jace Baldwin, Jordan Christianson, and Alex Bruess among the former Broncos who have crossed the international bridge to play here.
“I realize that we are two different countries and towns, but we consider the Falls’ players to be home-grown and local guys,” said Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“We have had some great success in landing some of their top players, ” he noted. “And I think as time has gone on, the players there have seen that we are a good organization and they want to play here now.
“To get Lucas is big for us as he had several other offers, and we think that he will be a big part of our team once he adjusts to the quicker junior style,” Strachan added.
DeBenedet, who describes himself as a crafty small forward who likes to make plays, got his first taste of Junior ‘A’ action last month at the new Couchiching arena when he took part in the Lakers’ prospect camp.
“I was only able to play on Friday night and Sunday morning because of work commitments in the Falls, but it was a lot of fun to get out there,” he remarked.
“The new rink that they have in Couchiching is very nice, but I can’t wait to be playing at the Ice For Kids Arena to start off the new season,” he enthused.
With the way he uses his speed and stick-handling to move around defenders, fans might think they’re seeing a clone of former Lakers’ forward Jordan Christianson when they watch DeBenedet out on the ice, which is something Strachan noticed, too.
“He has quick mobility to beat the other players out on ice, which is just like what Jordan would do,” he lauded.
“He reads the ice very well and while he’s a bit of a play-maker, he can also put the puck into the net on a regular basis.
“We need to work with him on the defensive side of things,” Strachan admitted. “But those are things that we can work on with him once we get into our systems.”
As he prepares for the Lakers’ training camp later this month, DeBenedet has a few short- and long-term goals he wants to achieve during his first season in the SIJHL.
“I know that I will have to be stronger on the puck as I can’t try to stick handle through five guys,” he stressed.
“From a team perspective, I just want to connect with the guys and have a good season, and I want to be a player that can help the team out into a getting a championship,” he added.
“And in the long-term, I just want to play well in the junior level and then go on to play in college some day.”