Penguins giving prospect Bennett a look
Beau knows how to impress at the college level. Beau knows how to adapt and thrive quickly at the AHL level, too.
Does Beau know how to play in the NHL?
He might soon find out.
Beau Bennett, the Penguins' 2010 first-round draft pick, is one of the few players on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster being invited to the team's abbreviated training camp. Given how brief camp will be — between five and seven days, likely — the Penguins aren't interested in monitoring the progress of their top offensive prospect, but rather are curious to see if he can help them immediately.
“I would love to get that chance,” Bennett said following a recent game in Wilkes-Barre. “I'm not really sure what the team has in mind, but playing in the NHL is always the goal.”
Bennett has made a sharp impression on many in the organization, namely the guy who might someday be on his line.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Bennett skated together in Los Angeles this summer. Bennett's stick handling, passing and overall ability were impressive.
“He's really good,” Crosby said. “Great hands, and he can really skate. You can see that he's going to be really good.”
Bennett's production in Wilkes-Barre has been impressive, especially considering he isn't working with a terrifically talented unit of forwards. There are few NHL prospects among Wilkes-Barre's forwards, most of them grinders.
Bennett is no grinder.
“He's just so incredibly skilled,” said forward Eric Tangradi, who also will take part in Penguins' training camp. “He's been great all year. Honestly, he's just a little different than the other guys here because of his skill level.”
Despite missing six games this season, Bennett leads Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 23 points in 28 games.
“You can just tell he's going to be a good NHL player,” said Joe Morrow, a fellow first-round pick and Bennett's roommate. “He's been awesome all year. He can do it all.”
The Penguins have worked with Bennett on adapting to their up-tempo system. Bennett has a tendency to slow down the play, taking advantage of his ability to see the ice.
Nothing in coach Dan Bylsma's system is based on slowing down the play.
“They've made it pretty clear to me that Pittsburgh Penguins hockey is all about north and south,” Bennett said. “That's been a change for me a little bit, but I'm getting used to it, and I have a pretty good idea of what they want out of me.”
Anyone concerned that the Penguins' desire to alter Bennett's style will rob him of his natural creativity should not be concerned.
Just ask Crosby.
“No,” Crosby said. “I'm not worried about that. The creativity in his game is something he'll never lose.”
There are plenty of obstacles on Bennett's path to the NHL. He has only a few days of training camp to impress his coaches, most of the lineup is already set and he is only 13 months removed from surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his wrist.
Still, Bennett's talent entices the Penguins, and Bylsma said he is unsure who will play on the second line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing James Neal.
“You watch Beau play,” Tangradi said, “and he just impresses you. He can play.”