is a changed man.
A lot has happened in the year since he was selected in the first round (20th overall) by the Penguins in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, with the most noticeable change being one of a physical nature.
Bennett has packed 23 pounds of muscle onto his 6-foot-1 frame since the draft, going from 173 pounds to his current weight of 196 pounds.
He also just finished his freshman year at Denver University, where not only did he have to make the transition to the college game from junior A hockey, but the 18-year-old California native had to adjust to living on his own for the first time.
With the one-year anniversary of his draft day approaching, Bennett reflected on the past 12 months with www.PittsburghPenguins.com and discussed what he’s looking forward to heading into his second prospect development camp in July.
THE 2010 NHL ENTRY DRAFT
With last summer’s draft being held in Los Angeles, Bennett had plenty of support in the stands.
Not only was the Gardena, Calif., native able to bring nine family members to the draft – his dad Kurt, mom Louanna, brothers Wade and Shane, sister Bailey and his grandma, aunt, uncle and cousin – but he also had waves of unexpected but welcome support throughout the Staples Center.
“I know there was a lot of people in the stands that I didn't even know were coming that were friends as well,” he said.
Bennett, who had just finished a fine season with Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) entering the draft – scoring 120 points (41G-79A) in 56 games – just wasn't sure what to think about where he’d eventually go.
“I was hearing a lot of different things – early, second round, stuff like that,” he said.
But once Penguins general manager Ray Shero stepped up to the podium and announced Bennett as the team’s first-round pick – thus making him the highest-drafted California born-and-bred player ever taken in the NHL’s yearly draft – those feelings of uncertainty were replaced by a wave of new emotions.
“I was just kind of in shock,” Bennett reflected. “I don't even really remember that first 10 minutes because I was still in shock from hearing my name called and walking up there and hugging my family. Other than that, I was kind of relieved just to hear my name called and get to meet everyone in the organization, then hang out with my friends and family for the rest of the weekend.”
Bennett certainly enjoyed every moment of that day, saying “It was all a fun experience for me, and to have my friends and family there, it was awesome. I’m glad I went where I went, that’s for sure.”
But it would be time to get back to business soon enough, as Bennett had a fairly quick turnaround between the draft and Pittsburgh’s annual prospect development camp. At the draft, the Penguins told him he needed to start preparing over the next two weeks because he had to be in Pittsburgh by July 11th for the prospect camp.
But Bennett is grateful he even had that much time to prepare.
“I know some camps are even the Monday after the draft, so I was kind of lucky having two weeks,” he said.
PROSPECT DEVELOPMENT CAMP
Bennett was plenty active in those two weeks before heading to Pittsburgh, hitting the gym and playing in a roller hockey tournament that lasted eight days.
“The roller hockey tournament ended on July 10, so the next day I left for prospect camp,” he said. “It was fun, it was a learning experience and I’m definitely going to come more prepared this year.”
The camp is used to teach Pittsburgh’s top prospects and recent draft picks how to develop the habits and mindset of a professional that are necessary to make it at the next level. The young men are also taught specifically what is expected from a pro hockey player in the Penguins organization.
In addition to on-ice practices and off-ice strength and conditioning sessions, the camp has seminars involving media training, a nutritionist, a sports psychologist and NHL security that teach the players the daily structure of the Penguins organization.
Last year's camp was led by Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, then-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden (now Penguins assistant coach) and then-WBS assistant coach John Hynes (now WBS head coach).
It’s a lot of information packed into a short amount of time, especially when the first-time attendees aren't quite sure what to expect. But now that he's got one under his belt, Bennett is chomping at the bit to get back to Pittsburgh for his second camp.
“I can’t wait, actually,” he said. “It’ll be fun to get back there and see how far I’ve come since last year.”
FRESHMAN YEAR AT DENVER UNIVERSITY
|Beau Bennett in his freshman year at Denver (Credit - Rich Clarkson & Associates) |
Back when Bennett attended a Penguins-Avalanche game in Colorado in February, he admitted the transition to the college game wasn’t easy.
“It was tough at the beginning,” he said at the time. “I had never played against 24, 25 year olds before, and just getting used to the speed and the strength in the corners, I think that’s the toughest part. The positional play, you have to play a lot better position-wise. Just growing up and learning those things (can be tough).”
But one of the main reasons Bennett chose the NCAA route – and Denver in particular – was because of the opportunity he would have to grow as a player.
His strengths lie in his creativity and ability to produce offense, which led to Bennett putting forth a strong freshman season with nine goals and 25 points through 37 games. But he’s been toiling in the weight room ever since his arrival in the Mile-High City to improve his strength, the part of his game he knows needs work.
|Beau Bennett in his freshman year at Denver (Credit - Rich Clarkson & Associates) |
“I’m kind of a creative player that brings offense to the table,” he said. “But as far as what I need to work on, I need to get to get stronger. I’ve been working on that a lot in college. It’s partly why I chose to play in college. I’m up to 196 right now, so I’ve actually been putting on weight.”
In addition to his team-oriented goals – winning the WCHA Final Five and capturing the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey championship – Bennett plans on coming forth with an even stronger effort for his sophomore season.
“I just kind of wanted to earn my playing time as a freshman,” he said. “I was aiming for 10 goals and didn't quite hit that, so next year I’ll definitely come in more prepared and ready to get after it right at the beginning of the season.”
In the meantime, Bennett, who is deciding between communications or digital media studies as a major, is going to be savoring the home-cooked meals he’ll get at his parents’ house this summer.
“It’s fun living with your friends, but it’s always nice living at home and having home cooking,” he said. “Because when I’m living on my own it’s pretty limited to just sandwiches all the time.”
After the Pioneers’ season ended in the second round of the championship tournament, Bennett took just a week off before getting right back in the gym and taking advantage of the resources at his disposal.
“I knew I wanted to utilize my team with our strength and conditioning coach, Mike Bridges,” he said. “So we got on a program and I was doing five days a week in the gym, just trying to work on my leg strength and upper body strength and everything in between. That was great.”
Now that Bennett is at home in California for the offseason, he’s working out at a facility called Athletes’ Performance in Los Angeles, where NHL stars like Chris Drury and Richard Park
He trains in the gym from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday to Friday, but on Saturdays, Bennett takes full advantage of the beautiful California sun and surf for a little variety in his routine.
“I try to do something active, like beach volleyball or paddleboarding,” he said. “Something away from the gym or the hockey rink, just to stay active.”
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
As of now, Bennett plans on turning pro at the end of his sophomore season. But if he doesn’t feel ready by that point in time, he’s willing to continue developing as a player and person in the program that Denver offers.
“My goal from the get-go is two years of college, and hopefully I’m ready by then,” he said. “But if not, I’m at a great place in Denver with great coaches, great friends and great teammates, so I’m more than willing and ready to stay as long as I need to to feel ready for the next level.”
For now, he plans on continuing to enjoy playing the game he loves while becoming the best player he can be for both his Denver coaches and those in the Pittsburgh organization.
“I come to the rink every day excited to skate, ready to skate and I have fun with it,” he said. “I do know there’s things I need to get better on, but one thing I identified early that I need to get stronger and better defensively. It’s no secret, and I just need to keep pushing myself and that’ll make my coaches in Denver happy and then hopefully, down the line, the people in Pittsburgh as well.”