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Prospect Bennett Has Strong Season Start

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins 2010 first-round draft pick Beau Bennett will miss several weeks of action after suffering a knee injury playing for Denver University.

Bennett, a 19-year-old freshman winger at Denver, had been a candidate for Team USA’s preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships, to be held in Buffalo, N.Y. Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2011 at HSBC Arena

Photo: Rich Clarkson & Associates/NCAA Photos
Though it is a short-term setback, all indications are that the injury isn’t too severe.

“It’s not as serious as initially thought, which is great news,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, who oversees the team’s prospect. “He’s being re-examined and will hopefully be cleared to practice the day after Christmas if everything goes as they think.”

Bennett hurt his knee when his skate was caught in the ice and he fell awkwardly. It was an unfortunate setback for Bennett, who was really picking up his game after adjusting to college-level hockey.

“I saw him out east in his first game as a college hockey player. He OK in Game 1,” Fitzgerald said. “In Game 2 he was really, really good. It’s a huge adjustment going playing in college. You’re playing against grown men.”

Bennett posted 10 points (3G-7A) and a plus-5 rating in 17 games with the Pioneers on the season and has shown the brilliant hockey knowledge that made the Penguins take him with the 20th-overall pick.

“He’s a very smart hockey player and he understands everything,” Fitzgerald raved. “It’s almost like playing chess with guys. He knows where puck going before it goes. He surprised his (Denver) linemates with passes. If he plays with a guy with his IQ, they’ll be off the charts.”

Another Penguins prospect, defenseman Philip Samuelsson, is among the 29 players named the Team USA preliminary roster. Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (61st overall) in the 2009 draft, is in his sophomore season at Boston College.

“I’ve seen him a lot,” Fitzgerald said. “I believe he has been their most consistent D-man game-in and game-out. He’s the type of player that sees the ice well, transitions fluidly from the neutral zone. He has a good stick.

“I think he has a really good chance of making the team because of what he brings. He can play D and transition up the ice. He can be a shutdown guy.”

Samuelsson is in his sophomore season with BC. Last year, he recorded 14 points (1G-13A) and a plus-15 rating in 42 games and helped the Eagles win the NCAA national title.

Fitzgerald believes that playing at such a high level of competition is helping Samuelsson develop into a strong, shutdown defenseman.

“Winning is developing,” he said. “You develop that winning attitude, whether that’s at juniors, in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or in Pittsburgh. Top programs like BC have high expectations. They’re the best college hockey team in the country. Samuelsson is 1 for 1 in championships. The expectations don’t get lower. They only get higher, and that will only make Samuelsson better.”

Other Pittsburgh natives that are attending Team USA’s camp are defenseman Patrick Wey (Mt. Lebanon, Pa.), who is Samuelsson’s teammate Boston College, and forward Brandon Saad (Gibsonia, Pa.), who is projected to be a top-5 pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

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