Benji Eckerle to Arizona State University

Benji Eckerle is set to gear up in a Sun Devil’s jersey for the 2020 season. The 3.75 star prospect has played over 100 junior games, splitting time between the NAHL and the USHL.

As a Michigan native, Eckerle developed in the prestigious youth programs of Compuware and Little Caesars, two of the best programs in the nation:

“It was an unbelievable honor to play for those teams growing up, I got really lucky and was blessed to live in the Detroit area where I had some of the best youth hockey in the world basically in my backyard.”

Although playing for Compuware and Little Caesars was enjoyable, there was something else that made youth hockey so special for Benji:

“My youth hockey experience was really awesome. My parents never really put any pressure on me to be the best or to perform well but they always made sure I was having fun which really allowed me to develop a love for the game. I was also blessed to have coaches like Mike McCullough who thought along the same lines and worked on development more than just winning.”

Benji sometimes struggled with game, as a number of players do. Some skills simply cannot be taught. Confidence is something a player gains through a positive mindset and constant hard work:

“My toughest challenge has really been just learning to believe in myself and have the confidence to know what kind of player I am. Growing up I really lacked confidence especially with the puck on my stick and it wasn’t until I started believing in myself and my ability to make things happen that I was able to turn a corner as a hockey player.”

After turning that difficult corner and developing at the youth level, Eckerle began his juniors career in 2017 with the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. During his time with the Jets the ’99 forward had 29 points, including 8 goals and 21 assists. The following season (this past year) Eckerle made the jump from Tier 2 to Tier 1 when he joined the Tri-City Storm of the USHL:

“The transition was actually pretty smooth from the NAHL to USHL. The NAHL is a great league to toughen you up and really introduce you to junior hockey so I think I was pretty well prepared to make the switch. The biggest difference really is dealing with the super high-end skill guys in the USHL and adjusting to the speed of the game.”

During his time in the USHL Benji was able to make his division 1 commitment to Arizona State:

“The thing about ASU that really drew me in was the culture that Coach Powers is laying down there. It’s a great school and has a beautiful campus and all that but the opportunity to be part of building a tradition and a successful hockey program is what really drew me in. My parents were a huge help in the process and they had a lot of faith in me to make the right decision so when ASU offered me it was really a no brainer. I was only talking to a couple other schools but I took my very first visit to ASU and fell in love with it right away.”

With one season still left to be played before making his debut at ASU, Eckerle has begun to prepare for the NCAA during the summer months:

“Most of my preparation is being done in the weight room, college hockey is really physical and my number one priority is making sure I’m healthy and strong enough to make the transition. I’m also doing on-ice skill work and especially working on skating a few times a week because with the speed of the game nowadays it never hurts to be a little faster.”

Benji may be focused on hockey for the time being but the future Sun Devil has put in some thought on what his life will be like after his final game is played. But just because his playing career is over does not mean his time in hockey world will expire

I’ve thought a lot about life after hockey and I know I want to go into some sort of psychology field but not exactly sure what. Certainly coaching would be something I’d like to try out but also Sports Psychology is a pretty new field that is really intriguing and I think could change the game in many ways.”

Benji tallied 19 total points this past season with Tri City, netting 8 goals and 11 assists.


Photo credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images