When entering the Penguins locker room each day for media availability during this year’s development camp, it always seemed that one player was in highest demand.
That can happen when the team’s head coach mentions his name along with Sidney Crosby’s in the same sentence.
Beau Bennett’s career has begun with high expectations as the Penguins’ 2010 first-round draft pick (20th overall) signed a three-year entry-level contract on April 13 after finishing his sophomore season at the University of Denver.
Bennett, 20, is out to make an impact any way he can, with head coach Dan Bylsma even hinting at the possibility of him earning a spot in the Penguins’ top-six forward lineup – perhaps even on a line with Crosby – in the future.
“The one thing that Beau has is the ability to make plays and finish plays offensively in traffic,” Bylsma said. “He’s not necessarily a guy who’s going to race down the ice with his speed, but his hands, his ability to create space and the ability to get his shot off is fairly evident in seeing him both in practice, in drills and also on tape in some of the games that he’s played.
“So you see that in him and you envision that as a pro player. It’s a guy you see in a top-six role with that type of skill and ability. Where that is as a professional, we’re going to see this year in terms of him going pro.”
After posting 25 points (9G-16A) in 37 games as a freshman, Bennett began his sophomore campaign on a torrid pace with 13 points (4G-9A) in 10 games. But the California native’s sophomore campaign ended prematurely when he suffered a broken wrist in the beginning of the season.
“I felt awesome. I felt I was ready for the season and got off to a way better start than I did my freshman year, just knowing more of the ropes and how college how works,” Bennett said. “I think I was ready for the season but it’s just something that happens like this. It’s unfortunate but in the grand scheme of life it’s not that big of a deal. I want to get better but going to the children’s hospital (during camp), we’re pretty fortunate with what we have so a little wrist injury is not the biggest deal.”
For Bennett, watching his teammates out on the ice while he was sidelined with such a difficult injury was a tough experience – but there were still things to be taken away when watching off the ice.
“There’s a lot to be learned from being a spectator,” Bennett said. “You can see it from above the rink perspective. You can see different plays and how everything forms on the ice. It looks like there’s a lot more room out there than there actually is. I think even though I didn’t play that many games, I got better in the sense that understanding the game a little better.”
Bennett’s rehabilitation on his surgically repaired wrist though has gone well, and he will continue to train in California for the summer leading up to Penguins training camp in September.
A lot of Bennett’s offseason has been spent in the weight room with new trainer TR Goodman as he’s been adding muscle and better preparing his conditioning for the transition to the pros. It shows, as Bennett has gotten his weight up to 207 pounds – more than 30 pounds more than what he weighed when he was drafted in 2010.
“I’m going to ramp up,” Bennett said. “(Goodman’s) training is really high intensity. It’s different than what I’m used to in the past. I’m following his lead.”
The winger’s play throughout camp was impressive, displaying an arsenal of dekes and crafty ways to get off his shot during the practices, skill sessions and scrimmage. Bennett left a good impression on some of the coaches, and they’re excited to see what he can do now that he’s in the pros.
“Beau Bennett, who we’ve drafted and is now turned pro, is a first-rounder who you hear a lot of good things about,” Byslma said. “He’s a high-end talented guy that is expected to be able to do that at some point in time and he’s turned pro here.”
With all the different scenarios floating around – like if he will be the piece to complement Crosby – Bennett’s focus remains on the prize: to put himself in the best situation possible in hopes of succeeding.
“I think there is an opportunity here,” Bennett said. “I would have loved to have won a national championship; that’s something you can share with your teammates for a really long time. I think right now though, (turning pro) was best for me at the time. Now going forward, I want to put myself in a spot where I can have an opportunity to maybe take that big step.”