As a precursor to our upcoming trip to the NHL draft, we'll be doing a series of draft related articles, including prospect profiles. Unlike most other sites, though, our prospect focus will be on players who are expected to be drafted at or around the 28th overall pick where the San Jose Sharks currently reside. For this edition, we're pleased to welcome prospect Beau Bennett of the BCHL Penticton V's. We'd like to thank Mr. Bennett and Ryan Pinder of the Penticton V's for making this interview happen. (Apologies to Ryan, we did a Q&A with him but had to hold off on transposing it because of time constraints. We hope to publish it later on in the week, but until then, be sure to visit his Penticton V's Blog and follow him on Twitter: @RyanPinder)
Beau Bennett is a 6'1, 173 lb right wing from Gardena, California. He started playing hockey at the age of four after following his older brother to his roller hockey practices. After switching to ice, Bennett developed a knack for scoring; he posted 58 points in 46 games for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings of the MWEHL.
During what would be his senior year of high school, Bennett joined the Penticton V's of the BCHL. In his first season with the team, Bennett scored 120 points (41 G, 79 A) in just 58 regular season games. He's the only BCHL rookie to have more than 100 points in the last seven years, and the next highest rookie this season posted just 80.
Bennett's incredible statistical season has resulted in a huge ratings bump for the young forward. After barely cracking the NHL's Central Scouting rankings top 50 North American prospect list at the midterm, Bennett currently sits just outside the top 30. TSN's Bob McKenzie has him rated even more favorably; McKenzie has Bennett 18th among all players in the current draft class.
Bennett's biggest weakness is his size, but he has a large 6'1 frame that he can still grow into. He's one of the purest offensive talents in the draft, and could be a real steal as the first round comes to a close. Bennett is committed to attend the University of Denver in the fall.
Growing up in California, Who got you into the game?
My older brother started playing roller hockey at the local parks, it's really big in California, and I started skating around. That's where the love of the game came from. I transferred over to ice after a while but I still played roller in the summer and I've loved the game ever since.
When did you make the transition to ice hockey, and was it tough for you?
I transferred from roller to ice at age eight, and it wasn't very tough. The only difficult part for me, at first, was stopping. It didn't come easy but once I got the hang of ice it was fun. I never looked back.
Who were the main influences on your development?
My parents were always really supportive. They never pushed me into anything, but they just wanted me to have fun. I just liked to go out there and do my thing, my dad really wanted us to get into sports and my brother chose hockey... I guess I just followed in his footsteps.
Until recently, not many prospects came out of California, and it's still a relatively weak pool. What's it like being a prospect coming out of the area?
It's fun, I get the best of both worlds. I get to play hockey and also enjoy the nice sun and beach. It's fun to play hockey in California and I'm glad I chose to stay here and go through my development here.
Bob McKenzie mentioned today on Twitter that there's a new wave of California players, and you're one of the highest ranked this year. Do you feel like you are a pioneer?
I don't know if pioneer is the word, but we are role models for the kids coming up in California. I always looked up to the guys coming out of California, like Bobby Ryan. You want to follow after those guys and I enjoyed being on the ice with them as much as possible so I always try to participate in the youth hockey program as much as I can, spark some interest. When I was starting my career I know I would have loved to have had that. It's been fun and I try to instill the enjoyment I get out of it into kids starting out in California.
Why did you decide to play in the BCHL?
It was a long process actually. I actually had offers from the Calgary Hitmen, the Tri-City Storm and the Penticton V's; I visited all three and at the end of the day I really believed in the coach of Penticton, I liked the area and the team. I went against what the normal American kid would do; I decided not to go into the USHL and just never looked back from there.
You scored 120 points in just 56 games. In you opinion, how would you rate your season?
My experience in Penticton was awesome. Playing under a coach like Fred Harbinson (he coached at the college level) was great for me. My teammates were great as well, I enjoyed coming to the rink every day. I learned so much this year, and I'm glad I chose this route.
Because of your strong statistical season, you moved up in the NHL's Central Scouting rankings from 48 at midterm to 32 on the final rankings. Do you think this is a good spot for you, or should you be ranked higher?
Wherever they rank me that's fine with me. At the end of the day, even if I'm wasn't ranked or not thought about for the draft, I'd still be playing. I enjoy playing and I'm looking forward to going to the University of Denver to play next year. It's a new part of my life, the college aspect. It's still an honor to be considered this year but I still need to keep working and try to get better every day, regardless of the rankings.
We heard that you had trouble choosing a college for next year. What made you pick the University of Denver?
I had a couple choices, so I made a short list of five schools. I didn't want to be away from my team for too long, so I narrowed it down to Colorado College and DU. At the end of the day I really believed in the coach and the team; it's kind of how I picked Penticton. It was close to home as well and that's the route I chose to go.
You won a gold medal at the World Junior ‘A' Challenge with Team USA and were the only non-USHL member of the team. What was this experience like for you?
It was awesome. I hadn't played for my country before and it was a real honor. I got a chance to experience some different coaching and got to play with some different teammates. We all got along will well, and it showed in the end when we came home with the gold.
What is the one aspect of your game that needs the most work?
Definitely my strength. I've been working on it this summer and I've already shown progress in that area. I'm up to 183 actually. On the ice last year I definitely had to be much more physically strong in the corners and in front of the net. Getting stronger is going to be a huge benefit to my game.
On the other hand, what skill are you most proud of?
I'd a student of the game, so probably my vision. I enjoy making plays with the puck and setting up teammates, I like to be a facilitator and dishing the puck. Getting creative in the offensive zone.
If you could compare yourself to one NHL player, who would it be and why?
I'd like to try to model my game somewhat after Bobby Ryan. He did play in California and he's strong with his stick, he creates opportunities for himself and his teammates and I'd like to be like that.
The draft will be held not far from your home town. Will you have some people in the stands? How excited are you for next weekend?
It's awesome because first and foremost I'm a fan of the game and the fact that it's in Los Angeles means that I would have been there if I was expected to be drafted or not. It's great that it's really right here in my back yard; my family will be here and it's going to be so exciting Friday and Saturday.
Speaking of the draft what's the weirdest question you were asked in your pre-draft interview?
Weirdest question? There actually weren't a ton of weird questions this year. I got one that was: "If you had to go to war right now, would you be a sniper, a medical aid or a helicopter pilot?" That was the weirdest one.
Well, what did you choose?
I chose sniper. (Laughs) I told them I didn't want to kill anyone, but I thought that would be the way to go.
Thanks Beau, good luck at the draft.
Thanks guys, have a good one.
FTF's Basic Observation:
It's hard to deny the offensive skill that Beau Bennett brings to the ice. Even though the BCHL isn't necessarily the strongest league, 120 points is nothing to frown at. In addition, the BCHL churns out more prospects than you'd think; even though Bennett is the only BCHL player in the Central Scouting top 100, Kyle Turris is a BCHL alumni who went top five just a few years ago. In terms of raw numbers, the two had very similar statistics in their final BCHL years.
We don't know if Beau will slip to the Sharks at 28, but if the Sharks do decide to draft him they'd be getting a player with serious offensive skill/upside and a few correctable faults. The size and skating can both be improved in a few years; the Sharks won't be getting a player who can make an immediate impact anyways.
It's likely that one of Bennett, Martindale, Sheahan or Toffoli will be availabe at the 28th pick. If the Sharks do end up using their first round pick for the first time in two years, there will be some talent to choose from. It would be a tough call, but in our opinion, Bennett and Toffoli have the most offensive upside. We'll see what happens once Friday rolls around.