Benoit won't be back for second half

Matthew Gourlie
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Del Grosso slowly making progress

Erik Benoit was the odd man out in the Moose Jaw Warriors final game before Christmas.

Erik Benoit takes a shot on goal in action against the Swift Current Broncos from earlier this season.

When the Warriors needed to healthy scratch a forward for the first time in more than a month, it was the 20-year-old Benoit who sat. Benoit opted not to return to the Warriors for the second half of the season.

The Warriors claimed Benoit off of waivers from Seattle when they were down to nine regular healthy forwards. Now that they’re back up to 14 forwards, general manager Alan Millar felt Benoit was going to struggle to find ice time.

“We were contemplating the decision and he had a meeting with (head coach Mike Stothers) before the break and it went from there,” said Millar. “Ultimately he went in to talk to (Stothers) about the situation and he’s not coming back.”

In the Warriors 5-2 win over Kamloops on Dec. 15, Benoit moved to the wing and played on the fourth line with Miles Warkentine and Colton McCarthy. When Brandon Potomak returned to the lineup in the Warriors 4-2 win over Prince Albert on Dec. 17, Benoit was healthy scratched.

“With Potomak and (Jack) Rodewald back there wasn’t going to be an opportunity for Erik with everyone back,” said Millar. “He saw the writing on the wall. His opportunities decreased as we went along. We don’t have room for him and we’re not going to take away ice time from our young guys for a depth 20-year-old.”

Benoit had three goals in his first five games, but finished with three goals and five points in a dozen games and was a minus-six.

Millar said he doesn’t expect to be actively looking to fill the empty 20-year-old spot, but didn’t completely rule out the possibility. Still he said “I don’t anticipate us getting any older at the deadline.”

The WHL trade deadline is Jan. 10. Millar said he has received some calls, but a deal isn’t imminent.

“We have some things we’re looking at between now and the deadline and we will have to see how that all plays out,” said Millar. “There’s been quite a bit of discussion in the last month or so. We get all sorts of inquiries because of the age of our team and where we are in the standings. There have been some discussions, but we’re not really close to anything now.”

The Warriors will be missing left winger Brandon Del Grosso for the foreseeable future. The six-foot-one rookie returned home to New Westminster, B.C. after suffering a serious upper body injury on Oct. 9.

In Del Grosso’s only appearance of the season he was driven head-first into the boards by Medicine Hat defenceman Spenser Jensen who received a two-minute checking from behind penalty and wasn’t suspended.

“He’s feeling better. It’s been ruled out that he had a concussion,” said Millar. “He certainly had some neck symptoms from the severe whiplash. There are some indications that there may be some issues with his jaw that may have been creating some of the headaches and his discomfort. We’re following up on that to see if that’s truly what it is.”

Del Grosso has been skating a little since the injury, but Millar said once he is cleared to play they will determine where he should finish the season.

“We’re going to try to make the right development decision for him when he’s ready to go,” said Millar. “It’s frustrating for the young man. We continue to have high expectations for Brandon, but it’s hard when you miss that crucial year of development at 17. He’s a hard-working kid and hopefully he can get healthy and get some development this year, no matter what that may be.”

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Seattle, Kamloops, New Westminster Medicine Hat

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