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Bennett Earns Opportunity in NHL

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins forward Beau Bennett visited Pittsburgh Wednesday to meet with team doctors for an evaluation of a recently recovered from injury. On Thursday morning, head coach Dan Bylsma told him to unpack his bags and stay a while.

The Penguins officially recalled Bennett from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and he joined the team for practice this afternoon.

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“I had the opportunity this morning to tell Beau he was getting called up. It was a good moment,” Bylsma said. “Beau was a little bit caught by surprise. His going out for practice today, he didn’t find that out until 9:30 a.m. It was a good conversation. Beau was pretty excited about that.”

“It’s fun to be back,” said Bennett, who attended the team’s shortened training camp in January. “I haven’t been told anything (about my role), just taking it day-by-day, learn from these guys and try to improve.”

Bennett, 21, is the Penguins’ best forward prospect. He has exceptional skills and is a gifted playmaker. Bennett is in the midst of his first season of professional hockey with WBS.

Bennett joined Pittsburgh on its current two-game road trip to Winnipeg and Buffalo, and if he does get in the lineup, it will be his first career NHL game. But when Bennett plays, who his linemates will be and his role haven’t been determined yet.

“In terms of what the plans is, there is not a plan at this point in time,” Bylsma said. “When Beau plays, he’s a skilled guy that has the ability to make plays and finish. That’s something he’ll get a chance to do. Who it’s with at this particular time he doesn’t know. You’re going to see him on the second power-play unit. He’ll have time and opportunity to play in a top-6 role at some point in time. But that isn’t necessarily where he’ll start when he gets in the lineup.”

Bennett, the Penguins’ first-round pick (20th overall) in 2010 and highest-drafted California-born player in NHL history, has played in 35 games for WBS, placing second on the team with 18 assists and fourth with 25 points. He represented the Penguins at the AHL All-Star Classic, but did not play due to injury.

“This year I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a big transition playing the system and in the AHL,” Bennett said. “It’s definitely harder than college. I think I’ve improved from Day 1. That’s the biggest thing. I’m happy that I’ve improved day-to-day.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward missed five games with a recent injury, but returned and played in the club’s previous three contests.

“I’m feeling pretty good. The injury was a minor thing,” Bennett said. “It kept me out for five games or so. I felt good these last three games playing in Wilkes. It feels pretty strong.”

The Penguins have liked what they’ve seen from the Gardena, California native. Bennett’s work has paid off in opportunity.

“He’s earned a call up. He’s played exceptional this year,” Bylsma said. “He’s added to his game defensively, puck management, playing in the offensive zone, showing he can play in puck battle areas, down low areas, both power play and five-on-five. That’s what he’s done this year in addition to the skill that he has and play making that he had. He earned this opportunity to come up and play.”

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