American winger Beau Bennett is making a serious run for the first-round in the June draft.
The Penticton Vees' sniper led the BCHL in scoring this season, amassing 41 goals and 120 points in 59 games this season. The BCHL has produced some solid NHL talent over the years, including current Bruin fan favorite Milan Lucic, who skated for the Coquitlam (now Burnaby) Express the year before the team plucked him out of Vancouver of the WHL in the second round.
The Gardena, Calif. native will join Joe Colborne at Denver University next season (assuming Boston's top prospect doesn't turn pro at the conclusion of the current campaign) and has all the hockey skills and game-breaking ability you look for in a high-end talent. Bennett does not have the size, strength or disposition to play a physical game, but if you're looking for a potential 30-goal or more guy for the NHL, albeit one who is a longer-term project, then Bennett is an intriguing option.
Were he to slip into the second round, he's the ideal kind of player to spend that Toronto selection on, given his ability and upside. However, things being what they are, I'm guessing that by the time the draft rolls around, Bennett will probably go somewhere between 20-30. It's not outside the realm of possibility that the Bruins could use a couple of those early second picks and maybe a prospect to trade into the bottom portion of the first round (25-30) to give themselves three first-round picks for the first time since 1970 (when they had four selections in the first 13 back when there were 14 NHL teams). History lesson: The B's have had three first-rounders one other time (1969) and two first-rounders a total of five times in franchise history, with the last occurrence coming in 2000 when they busted with the selections of Lars Jonsson (7th) and Martin Samuelsson (27th). The two best double-first selection years happened in 1979 and 1997 when the B's drafted Ray Bourque and Brad McCrimmon and Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov respectively.
Bennett is a late-91 birthdate who registered one five-point game, and seven four-point contests with the Vees this season. His explosiveness and productivity sent the scouts flocking to see him all year.
I'll amend this posting when I can get ahold of Mike Remmerde of the Red Line Report, who's seen Bennett multiple times this season and can comment on the rookie's impressive year. (He's not given a ringing endorsement to Bennett's teammate and Boston's 7th-rounder Ben Sexton, however.)
26 FEB UPDATE: Here's Remmerde's observations on Bennett, and he's going to see him again this weekend for the first round of the BCHL playoffs, so I'll post anything further when I get it:
"Half of my notes on Bennett consist of phrases like, 'Wow, can he really shoot the puck!' That Penticton team looks for him on the ice all the time. The whole offense seems geared to him and getting him the puck for scoring chances in the good areas. He's slight- he's got a big frame, but has a lot of filling out to do. His projection if he's going to be an NHL player is probably as a top-two line guy or nothing at all. His skating is good- he's real agile but isn't a dynamic game-breaker in that regard. Where his strength lies is when the puck is down low on the cycle and at finding a way to get open, find open linemates and score that way rather than from a bunch of solo rushes. And to be honest, that speaks much better for him than if he were scoring on a lot of individualistic plays. The whole problem is trying to figure out a Tier 2 player because the goaltending is substandard at that level. Is a guy who is picking the corners on a Tier 2 goalie going to be able to do it when he moves up to that next level? To me that's the biggest difference between major junior and tier 2- the quality of goaltending. So, Bennett still has a lot to prove." - Mike Remmerde