Hanley has struggled to hold down a place in Newcastle’s first-team this season, and has only made three starts in the Championship.
The 25-year-old was brought in to Newcastle’s team to play against Birmingham City, and he performed well.
Newcastle kept a clean-sheet at St. Andrews, with Hanley’s display earning him a lot of credit from Benitez.
“I knew he would do well, because he has been training really well right the way through,” Benitez said.
“Even when he was not involved, he was always positive and trying to help his team-mates.
“He is someone who really talks in defence. It was not easy for him, because their striker is really strong, but he did well.”
Hanley got his chance at Newcastle, because Ciaran Clark was ruled out with injury.
Clark has generally been utilised alongside Jamaal Lascelles this season, as Newcastle’s first choice central defensive pairing.
Hanley may have done enough to stay involved for the run in though, as Newcastle go for promotion.
The Magpies are currently leading the way in the Championship, with their next match coming against Wigan Athletic in two weekends’ time.