It certainly hasn’t been the easiest past couple of years for Beau Bennett injury-wise, with the 2014-15 season being especially frustrating for him.
Last summer, Bennett put in a lot of work rehabbing following offseason wrist surgery so that he would be ready for training camp – where he was arguably the Pens’ best player throughout the first week. But his progress was halted when he sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for a few weeks.
Bennett then suffered another lower-body injury less than a month after that (and came down with the mumps during that same time period), and after returning from that, he was never quite able to contribute the way he wanted to.
But now that the winger signed a one-year, $800,000 deal with the Pens on Wednesday, he’s putting what he called “a really rough year” behind him and is looking ahead to the 2015-16 campaign.
“It was nice to just get (the contract) out of the way and now, I can focus on coming into the season in the right frame of mind and the right shape,” he said. “Directing my focus solely on training and eating the right way and skating, it’ll be good going forward.”
Bennett got off to a strong start simply by returning to his native California at full health, something he wasn’t able to do the last two summers.
“Oh, man. It’s crazy,” he said. “I hadn’t golfed in two summers because of wrist issues, and just to be able to golf again and stay active throughout the day has been great. My friends and I golf probably four or five times a week and when we’re not doing that, we’re at the beach. So it’s train in the morning, get your requirements done and then kind of relax after that.”
At the end of last season, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound winger needed to get stronger. To achieve that, Bennett changed both his training and nutrition regimens. He now drives a decent distance in order to work with a guy named Matt O’Hara, whom he said has been “awesome.”
“He knows what it takes to rehab injuries and guard against future injuries, so he’s been working with me a lot and we work out six days a week,” Bennett said. “Even something small as it takes me an hour to get there every day, it’s kind of making that sacrifice, going to a place I know is going to help me in the long run and it’s been a great summer so far. Adding in the nutrition part was a big thing this summer as well.”
For that, Bennett did a lot of testing at the beginning of the summer and figured out what he needed to gain in skeletal muscle mass in order to have functional strength – where he wants “to feel like I’m 190, but playing at 200.” A lot of that comes from leg strength, which has been Bennett’s biggest focus this summer.
Bennett was then was given a meal plan based off his goals, and while he admits the food isn’t always the tastiest, he just gets it down for the good of his body.
“Now I’m way more in tune with what I need to do for preparation and how to make my body feel right,” he said. “It’s been a really positive summer in terms of how to be a pro.”
Mentally, Bennett said his approach is just to take things day-by-day.
“I think just every day, make an impact and get better, as opposed to looking at the grand scheme of things,” he said. “If I come in every day and just try to make an impact and help the team wherever I can, because I know we have a lot of good forwards, I think that’ll go a long way into my personal success and me helping the team.”
And no matter where he’s slotted into the lineup this year, Bennett just wants to make plays.
“If I’m in the bottom-six, it’s important to still contribute from the bottom-six,” he said. “I’m never going to be that big, bruising forward, but I can be physical at times while still bringing that skill element to the bottom-six. … I think I’m in a much better place going into this year. I’m ready to prove myself again and will try to earn (the coaches’) trust.”