Needless to say, it’s been a rough year for the Devils. They’ve had trouble scoring goals and their defense has been plagued by numerous miscues that have them mired in one of their worst seasons in franchise history. Ray Shero made quite a few acquisitions this offseason; some of which have panned out (Taylor Hall) and some of which have not (Ben Lovejoy). One move that has flown under the radar this season was acquiring Beau Bennett from the Pittsburgh Penguins on draft day in exchange for a third-round pick. Bennett has not scored a ton this season (he has 13 points in 51 games), but he’s been one of the Devils best even-strength players for a majority of the season and continues to be as game No. 82 approaches.
For the year, Bennett has a 52.6 percent Corsi, which is just ahead of Taylor Hall’s 52.2 percent. When Bennett is off the ice, the Devils possession is just 45.6 percent, which is a pretty substantial drop-off. For his career, he’s a 52.4 percent possession player, so he’s right about where his career average lies. Bennett has also been the Devils best shot suppressor among their forwards, averaging 48.8 shot attempts against per 60 minutes. He also generates the second most shot attempts per 60 minutes, just behind Taylor Hall. The scoring may not be there, but Bennett is driving play and New Jersey’s numbers are much improved when he’s on the ice.
Even as the Devils are mired in their worst slump of the season, Bennett’s play hasn’t slipped. In nine games since February 19th, he has a 53.9 percent Corsi. When Bennett is off the ice, the Devils Corsi is 47.6 percent. Bennett has also generated the most shot attempts for the Devils during this ten-game winless streak. In nine games played, he’s averaging 63.4 shot attempts per 60 minutes. The next best mark is Stefan Noesen at 61.7 shot attempts per 60 minutes and the two have seen some time together at even-strength (43 minutes) over the last three weeks. Just like most of the season, the Devils have been better when Bennett is on the ice rather than when he’s off, even during their ten game winless streak.
Although Bennett hasn’t scored a ton, he’s a touch off his career production. During his time in Pittsburgh, he averaged 29 points per 82 games. This season, he’s producing at a 19-point pace over an 82 game stretch. As mentioned, Bennett does create chances. He’s seventh amongst Devils forwards in scoring chances and high danger chances (via Natural Stat Trick). He just seems to be snake-bitten this season. Considering his solid possession metrics and the number of chances he creates, he should be able to produce a bit more and come closer to that 29-point pace he produced at in Pittsburgh.
Bennett is set to become a restricted free agent at season’s end. While he’s not likely to receive a long-term deal or even a hefty pay raise, there’s no doubt that he should be dressed in Devils red and black next season. He may not score a ton, but he’s one of the Devils best possession players. With the team looking to improve this offseason, Bennett should be in the Devils plans going forward. For a team that lacks consistency, Bennett has been one of their more consistent players at even-strength all season long. He drives play and the Devils results are better with him on the ice rather than when he’s off. He may be underperforming offensively, but with a better roster, Bennett can likely become an effective bottom-six scorer for the Devils and provide them with more secondary scoring, which is something that will be of great importance for Ray Shero this offseason.
(All Stats from Corsica Hockey unless specified otherwise)