When Beau Bennett stepped on the ice at the Sports Centre at MCC for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s preseason contest with Rochester Wednesday night, there was a lot of adrenaline pumping through his body.
“Dec. 2, (2011) was the last game I played. It’s been a while,” Bennett said. “That’s why you play, for the games. You play for that excitement. I’m excited to get on the ice for games.”
Due to a wrist injury, Bennett, 20, played his first competitive contest in 10 months as WBS defeated Rochester, 4-3. Being able to play hockey again after such a long layoff was an exhilarating feeling for the Penguins’ 2010 first-round draft pick.
"I enjoyed it thoroughly," Bennett said after the game. "It was good. I felt comfortable out there.
"It's weird not playing a real game in a long time. Going forward I just want to keep getting better and keep playing games as much as possible."
Bennett, who skated on a line with veterans Eric Tangradi and Trevor Smith, originally suffered the injury during practice last October, while playing for the University of Denver. His wrist required surgery, performed Dec. 8, which ended his 2011-12 season with just 10 games played.
But after successful surgery and a long rehab, Bennett has regained his health.
“I feel really good,” said Bennett, who did not factor in on the scoresheet. “It’s coming back slowly, but surely. It’s pretty close to 100 percent, if it’s not 100 percent. I just have to keep improving every day and try to get full strength back.”
Bennett, the highest-drafted California-born player (Gardena) in NHL history (20th overall), hopes to work off the rust from missing so much time quickly, so that he can get off to a fast start this upcoming season.
“Being off for so long I’m just trying to do the best I can right now, get the timing back; my shot is not where I want it to be yet,” he said. “Going forward, I want to make an impact from the start. I don’t want to take 10, 20 games before I start doing something. From the get go I want to have an impact and do things right.”
But Bennett will have to balance his attempt at a start fast with trying not to do too much.
“You don’t want to do anything outside the reason they brought you in,” he said. “You don’t want to overdo things. But you don’t want to be so bad that they wonder what’s going on with you. It’s a learning experience. You want to do the best that you can and keep it all in mind that they’re there for you and will help you get to where you want to be.”
Bennett is one of several Penguins prospects making the jump from juniors/college to professional hockey. He and other professional rookies arrived in Wilkes-Barre a month priory to the start of training camp to workout and skate.
The rookies are adapting to a new city, new teammates and playing at a higher level of competition, all with the hopes of earning a roster spot.
“It’s definitely different from college,” Bennett said. “In college everyone on the team is already on the team. It’s different in that aspect. The intensity level here is so much higher. Every drill is done at full speed. I’m getting used to that. I’m trying to play at a higher pace. It’s gotten better as the summer progressed.”
Bennett played the last two years at DU. But he and his family decided the time had come to make the jump to the pros.
“I felt confident taking the next step. I felt like I got better even though my time was limited on the ice. It was something me and my family talked about. We came to the conclusion that this was right for me. I feel good going into the season and sticking with it.”
And even though hockey is now Bennett’s full-time job, he still hasn’t lost his childlike love of the game.
“It’s a more professional attitude with everything you do, but it’s still fun,” he said. “I enjoy coming to the rink. I enjoy getting on the ice. Even though it’s technically a job I still have fun with it.”