BostonBruins.com - Although he has grown up in Edmonton, Alberta defenseman Matt Benning still has a lot of connection with the Bruins organization. His uncle is the Bruins Assistant General Manager Jim Benning. However, much like other Bruins prospects with connections to the Bruins organization such as Ryan Fitzgerald and Matt Grzelcyk, Benning still wants to find his own path to the NHL.
“It means a lot,” said Benning on his local connection to the team. “Obviously growing up a Canadian kid you want to be in the NHL. This just gave me the opportunity to be one step closer. I couldn’t be more happy. It’s a great organization and I’m really excited about it.”
Benning, drafted the Bruins in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, enters his second development camp after spending a year playing with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL). The 6 foot defenseman played in 57 games for the Fighting Saints scoring 10 goals and adding 16 assists for 26 points. He also had 73 penalty minutes.
His productive year was capped off with a USHL Clark Cup Championship. In 11 playoff games he had 1 goal and 1 assist for 2 points.
Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney noticed how much that experience helped Benning’s development as a player saying, “Matt Benning has had a really good year, and he won a championship. From where he was a year ago to where he is today is exciting for him as a player.”
Reflecting on his year with the Fighting Saints, Benning reaffirmed what Sweeney said saying how winning a championship has really helped in terms of his development.
“I think that really helped,” said Benning. “My team was pretty good and it definitely helped practicing with them. Good players. I think that I’ve developed a lot to where I am now, but I still think I have a lot more to go obviously. Pretty excited about it.”
Specifically, Benning knows that he still has a lot of development left to go before he is ready for the professional leagues.
“I think that I can still get in better shape,” said Benning. “I’ve been working on that for the past year, year and a half. Foot speed, skating definitely and probably my shot.”
Benning models his game after former Bruins leader and now Edmonton Oiler Andrew Ference. He admires the tenacity with which Ference plays the game despite only being 5’11.
“I really enjoy watching Andrew Ference,” admired Benning. “He plays the game really well. He plays hard and he’s not the biggest guy, but he battles really hard and that’s who I try to model my game after. Just playing hard, being hard to play against.”
This fall, Benning is committed to play at Northeastern University. Fellow Bruins prospects Ryan Fitzgerald and Matt Grzelcyk will be playing at Boston College and Boston University respectively and once Greenwich, Connecticut native and defenseman Wiley Sherman dons a Harvard jersey in the fall of 2014, there will be one Bruins prospect at each of the four Boston schools playing in the Beanpot every year.
Excited about the challenge ahead in playing against fellow Bruins prospects, Benning said, “Obviously, they’re [Fitzgerald and Grzelcyk] really good players.”
“Any time you can play against really good players I think I develop so I’m really excited to play against them. There’s obviously a little rivalry with being in Boston so I’m pretty excited about it.”