From a skill standpoint Beau Bennett screams top-6 forward. Everyone got a glimpse of that Friday night when Bennett was the best player on the ice in the Penguins 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I was really impressed with Beau’s game,” Bylsma said Sunday of Bennett’s performance vs CBJ. “How well he skated, how strong he was on pucks. Skill was evident…. but he attacked, attacked with speed, looked to get his shot off through traffic sometimes, made some great plays. He was physical, second on our team in hits as a forward. Went to the hard areas, was hard on the wall. He was really good.”
Expecting him to play at that level consistently might be a bit unrealistic, but even though he’s only played 39 career regular season games, you don’t waste players with Bennett’s skill set playing a third line role with mediocre offensive players like Brandon Sutter.
While the Penguins went into the regular season with envisions of Bennett and Sutter playing together on the third line and providing needed depth scoring, it remains to be seen if that is still the plan several months later.
Sources said last week the coaching staff has serious intrigue of going into the playoffs with Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter anchoring the third line due to Jokinen’s previous history of playing his own end well during stints with Carolina as a second and third line center. Once Bennett returned that was going to be the plan until Evgeni Malkin was injured last week.
It was no coincidence that the Penguins had Bennett playing extensively on left wing during his three game stint in Wilkes Barre.
If everyone stays healthy once Malkin returns just before or around the first round, the Penguins now have seven players to fit into the top-6, giving the coaching staff options which they didn’t have a month ago prior to the acquisition of Lee Stempniak and Bennett still injured.
Bennett’s ability to play both sides makes him a potential candidate to see time on Crosby’s right wing at some point if Lee Stempniak starts struggling.
Regardless, the coaching staff has to find a spot for Bennett in the top-6 and maximize his skill set.