Tri-City Americans

Ams send picks to Kootenay for Benning

KENNEWICK -- While most of the Western Hockey League has been relatively quiet this summer, the Tri-City Americans have been wheeling and dealing.

Americans general manager Bob Tory pulled the trigger on his fourth transaction in the last three weeks Wednesday, trading conditional third- and sixth-round picks in the 2012 bantam draft to the Kootenay Ice for the rights to 17-year-old defenseman Matt Benning.

"This was a good opportunity to pick up a good young defenseman," Tory said. "Kootenay was very fair. It looked like Matt wouldn't report to them. To get young talent on your depth chart is difficult at times. We'd love to have him on our team. There is nothing to lose, but we could get a player who could play three or four years for us."

The 6-foot, 205-pound native of St. Albert, Alberta, played for the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League last year, recording seven assists and 65 penalty minutes in 43 games.

The Saints won the AJHL title, then lost in Game 7 of the Doyle Cup to the Vernon Vipers for the second year in a row.

"He's a big kid, similar in size to what Tyler Schmidt was at that age," Tory said. "For him to play Junior A at 16 on one of the top teams in Canada in the top four (defensemen) is impressive."

Kootenay selected Benning in the second round (35th overall) of the 2009 bantam draft. He never played a game for the Ice.

Benning is the son of former NHL defenseman Brian Benning, who played parts of 10 seasons for the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. Brian Benning also played two years in the WHL for Portland and Kamloops.

"The good part of getting traded is that somebody wants you," said Brian Benning, who now owns an Interstate Battery franchise. "Kootenay was an opportunity we stayed patient with. We kept him home to make sure the schooling was there. I believe you have top be in the top third of your team, not the bottom third. We're not in a rush to get there."

Because he has never played a WHL game, Tory will need to sign Benning to a standard player's education contract for the deal to be complete.

"I had a good conversation with Bob (on Wednesday)," Brian Benning said. "We are keeping our options open."

Which Tory can appreciate.

"Matt has aspirations to play pro and I think we are a viable option for that," Tory said. "He has grown up around hockey and he understands it. It's a case of the Bennings making a decision on what is best for Matt and his career."

The Americans also recently picked up the rights to forward MacKenzie Royer, 19, who played for Moose Jaw last year, but was released by the Warriors, making him a free agent.

The 6-0, 177-pound Royer played for Calgary when the Hitmen beat the Americans in the 2010 WHL finals.

"He's a very good checking line guy," Tory said. "I'm excited about the competition at this year's camp. No one should feel their job is safe."