The Penguins, as expected, are moving Beau Bennett to right wing full time this season, as he struggled mightily on his off-wing in the defensive zone last season. The early plan, though, isn’t for Bennett to be one of the top two line right wingers, as anticipated.
Last season Dan Bylsma and his staff had a strong vision of Bennett teaming with Brandon Sutter on the third line and Bennett being able to carry a third line offensively.
Injuries to Bennett and Pascal Dupuis never saw that plan enacted full-time.
What’s been interesting in the early stages of training camp with a now new coaching staff is Mike Johnston has the same vision as Bylsma when it comes to Bennett being a focal point on the third line, despite Bennett having the skill set of a top-6 forward and the Penguins having obvious holes there.
Johnston said prior to camp, not to ready anything into line combinations early on, but a unit of Steve Downie – Brandon Sutter – Beau Bennett is a line the Penguins are looking to keep together, Johnston noted on Saturday.
“You can read a little bit into that one,” Johnston said. “I’m trying to look for someone to fit with {Brandon} Sutter, who would be a good long term fit and add balance and depth to our group. A guy like Beau Bennett is a skilled player, he hangs onto the puck, and he makes plays. Complimentary wingers for Sutter would be a skilled player and a guy who’s a real worker, and to me that’d be the perfect combination (Downie – Sutter – Bennett).”
Brandon Sutter is a notorious poor possession player, 42.9 CF% in 2013-2014, while Bennett has proven be an excellent possession player in 47 career games. In 21 games last season, Bennett posted a 57.8 CF%. Last season the Penguins took 57.4% of shot attempts with Bennett and Sutter on the ice together for 63:19. During the regular season the Penguins third and fourth lines were among the worst last season when it came to puck possession.
Bennett has the ability to dramatically improve the Penguins third line from a possession standpoint and Steve Downie despite an extremely poor season in Philadelphia, was a solid possession player last season.
However, can the Penguins afford to play Bennett on the third line when there’s a major hole in the top-6?

*While the rumblings have been there for weeks of the Penguins wanting to take Pascal Dupuis off Sidney Crosby’s line, or at least experiment some other possibilities with Dupuis on Evgeni Malkin’s left wing, sources say Sidney Crosby has made it known he wants to play with Dupuis.
*With Evgeni Malkin still sidelined, Patric Hornqvist has played on a line with Daniel Carcillo and J.S. Dea at center the past three days now.