Bennett "Strengthens" His Game
Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:06 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
What a difference a year makes.
At the Penguins 2011 development camp, prospect Beau Bennett, the Penguins’ first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, looks like a completely different player from the same camp one year ago.
First of all, he simply looks stronger. That is due to the 23 pounds of muscle that he has bulked onto his 6-foot-1 frame, bringing him to up to a solid 196 pounds.
“This is a year and a half of work that I’ve put in,” said Bennett, who recently completed his freshman season at Denver University. “I feel a lot more confident with my body. I gained a little weight in college. That’s really where my confidence is coming from. Working in the gym five days a week with (Pioneers strength) coach (Mike) Bridges has been great.”
“He’s a more mature player,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who runs the development camp. “He’s definitely stronger on the puck. … You can see that he feels more comfortable playing against bigger, stronger guys. Last year, you could see the thought process that he wanted to do certain things, but he didn’t have the strength. This year you can see that he can do physically what his mind is telling him to do.”
Second, Bennett’s on-ice play has taken huge steps forward. During the week he’s flashed the occasional brilliance and skill set that made him so attractive to the Penguins brass.
“One of the things we liked about him when we drafted him was his hockey sense, his hands and his ability to make offensive plays,” Hynes said. “I think in this camp you can see in the regular skill drills, he does a good job releasing the puck. He’s got excellent hands. He can look off a pass, do no look passes. Then when you put him in more competitive situations later in practice, he has an impact in traffic.”
Bennett, 19, is using his second Penguins development camp as an opportunity to test his skill set and hockey sense.
“I thought it would be great to gage where I’m at this year compared to last year,” Bennett said. “It’s important to realize you’re not making the team out of this camp. You’re here to learn from the older guys and the coaches. Just take it as a learning experience and have fun with it.”
Bennett will be entering his sophomore season with Denver. He originally had contemplated making the transition to pro from college after two years at the university, although that timeline was never set in stone.
“I want to put in as much time and effort and see where I’m at after two years,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out I’ll always have Denver to go back to. It’s a great place, great fans there and a great school. I put the timeframe on myself so I’m not complacent, adding a little pressure to get in the gym and working as hard as I can.”
The Penguins certainly aren’t rushing Bennett’s development.
“With the college kids, we have four years,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “I’d like to think and believe that when it comes to these kids after their freshman year, it becomes a year-to-year thing. What’s best for Beau's development? Would it be to come into the organization and play the 82-game schedule? Or would it be better for Beau to play 30 games and still concentrate on the things that you need to concentrate on, which is strength and conditioning, getting bigger, adding weight? Then we’ll re-visit it the next year and see where it goes.”
And as Fitzgerald has pointed out, for Bennett to develop into a NHL player he needs to mature physically.
“You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness,” Fitzgerald said. “Every player has warts. His are his lack of strength, and that’s what he’s working on. That’s where the college game really benefits kids like that, because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning.”
“Strength,” Bennett reiterated as the area he would most like to improve. “I never want to get complacent with it. I don’t want to be satisfied with it. This year I want to work on my leg strength, get my legs stronger. Then hopefully, that correlates to getting a little faster.”
And if Bennett’s has improved that much in just one year, imagine how much one more year will help in his maturation.
Bennett at a Glance
Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:03 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
The Penguins selected Cali-native Beau Bennett in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, California. Here are some quick quotes from Bennett on Bill Guerin, music, roller hockey and more…
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH BILL GUERIN
It’s great having him around the rink. One thing you notice form him is that he enjoys being around the guys, being around the rink. He really has fun with it. That’s what I try to bring to the rink everyday. A guy like that, you just want to take everything he says with you next year and really pay attention to him. He’s staying hard on me to make sure that I have a little pressure. He also wants to keep it fun and make sure I keep my head up and don’t get down on myself.
ON HITTING GUERIN WITH A PUCK
I really hit him. It went off the crossbar and hit the side of his head. He geared up with a helmet the next day. I apologized like 10 times. I felt so bad.
ON RECOVERING FROM A KNEE INJURY LAST YEAR
It was a long process for me because I never really hurt my knees before. That happened on a fluky play. I fell and looked really dumb doing it. Once I figured out what the diagnosis was, we didn’t waste any time. We started rehabbing. I got back a couple weeks before I thought I was going to be back. Everything is great. I feel pretty strong.
ON SPENDING HIS TIME IN CALIFORNIA
I’ve been training mornings and sometimes nights. I’ve been (going to the) beach a lot, beach volleyball, paddle boarding, fun stuff you can do in California anytime.
ON PLAYING PIANO
I try to. A lot drops off when you stop taking lessons and practicing every day. My parents told me that if I wanted to play hockey I had to play an instrument for five years. I made it 8 to 13. I can still play some songs from back then and learn some songs if I need to. I learned enough while I was doing it.
ON HIS MUSICAL TASTES
I listen to everything. I never really liked country. I went up to Canada and that’s all they listen to so I started listening to it a little bit. I went to a Kid Rock concert recently. That was pretty awesome. It was a good experience.
ON PLAYING ROLLER HOCKEY
It helps with your hockey sense. It’s more of a strategic game. There is no icing, no hitting, so you really have to think and take your rushes when they come. That’s something I’ve always learned from roller hockey, you have to be patient with the puck and survey the play.
ON HIS COOKING SKILLS
My skills are very bad, very poor. I kept it simple with sandwiches (in college). On the go and getting to classes I’d get that extra sleep. I’ll keep that going forward into next year and hopefully make the meals once in a while.
ON FRESHMAN YEAR AT DENVER UNIVERSITY
It was great. Learning the schedule and where to be, how to get to classes and stuff is a learning experience right off the bat. We don’t start the season until October, so we had a little time to figure it all out. We had a great year, great group of guys, great coaching staff. It was a really fun year, that’s for sure. (College players are) a lot stronger and quicker in the corners. That’s one thing that took me time to figure out is finding my space and being able to make plays at a higher rate. Once I did, I started playing better.
ON ONE DAY PLAYING AT CONSOL ENERGY CENTER
It’d be unbelievable. That’s every kids dream growing up playing hockey. You want to make it as far as you can go. I didn’t realize that dream until the draft happened. Being here this week and skating around the facility makes you respect where you are. Hopefully, one day I can get here.
Bill Guerin wearing a helmet after Bennett hit him with a puck (photo courtesy of Scott Stuccio)
Penguins seeing room for growth in Bennett
By Annie Maroon, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, July 16, 2011
In a locker room full of New Englanders, Canadians and even Pittsburghers who grew up in intense hockey cultures, Beau Bennett stands out.
Being from southern California will do that in hockey circles.
Born and raised near Los Angeles, Bennett, 19, still is adjusting to skating in climates where it's cold enough to play pond hockey in the winter. That hasn't slowed him down, but the rigors of the Penguins' development camp this week have shown Bennett the level of commitment needed to play in the NHL.
"Growing up in California, there's not much pressure put on you as a hockey player," Bennett said. "You just kind of come to the rink and do your thing, and just seeing how the pro guys work (in Pittsburgh), you definitely get a feel and a respect for the work ethic you need."
Work ethic wasn't a problem for Bennett through his first year at the University of Denver. He's added about 10 pounds of muscle since the Penguins drafted him 20th overall last year, and he said further improving his conditioning is a goal for this season.
"I think my legs have gotten a lot stronger," Bennett said. "I shaved a couple seconds off the skating test — that's always good — and got stronger upper-body and gained a little weight. So I have another year in Denver to develop, and I'm looking forward to it."
Bennett is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said there's still room for him to grow.
"You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness, but the thing that separates him is his skill set and his hockey sense," Fitzgerald said. "He puck-protects very well. Every player has warts, and his (is) his lack of strength, and that's what he's working on. That's where the college game really benefits kids like that because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning."
In his second turn at camp, Bennett also has progressed mentally, shedding the rookie nerves that accompanied him last summer.
"I see a lot of (2011 first-round pick) Joe Morrow in the way Beau was last year, really wide-eyed and looking around and trying to take everything in," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Now, I see a kid who's a little more confident. ... You see that now in the guy on the ice and off the ice, and the size he is on the ice versus the tall, slender kid he was."
Bennett will return to Denver for the 2011-12 season. After that, he'll have a decision to make.
"I want to have a great year with all the boys down there and hopefully win as many games as possible, and at the end of the season re-evaluate where I'm at and then either make the jump (to the pros) or go back for another year," Bennett said. "My goal has been two years (at college) from the start, and that's what I'm working toward."
TV tweaks Pens' schedule
The Penguins made a minor change to their recently released schedule.
A home game against Winnipeg scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 instead will be played the next day. The Penguins will host the Jets at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.
The change was made so CBC could televise the game nationally in Canada.