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Penguins Brass All Smiles After Taking Bennett With First-Round Pick

Saturday, 06.26.2010 / 1:07 AM / Features
By Sam Kasan
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins arrived in Los Angeles for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft looking to re-stock their system with talented players.

They didn’t have to look very far.

The Penguins grabbed Gardena, California native Beau Bennett with the 20th-overall selection, making him the highest-drafted California player ever taken at the NHL’s yearly draft.

“It’s unbelievable, a whirlwind of emotions,” Bennett said. “Having my family here is amazing. To go to an organization like Pittsburgh, which has won a Stanley Cup recently, has (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby, it is a dream. I hope to be there one day, playing alongside those guys.”

“He’s been a point producer, he skates well, he scores goals, he’s strong on the puck already and he’s not done growing yet,” Penguins director of amateur scouting Jay Heinbuck said. “He’s going to fill out. He’s got a great work ethic. We’re real excited to get him.”

Bennett, 18, played for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League and led the BCHL in scoring this past season with 120 points on 41 goals and 79 assists in 56 games.

Bennett’s offensive talent has Heinbuck full of smiles.

“We saw a kid that had exceptional skills already and a lot of potential to be an offensive player at the NHL level,” said Heinbuck, who admitted to being nervous that Bennett would get selected ahead of Pittsburgh’s pick. “We were excited to get him.

“He’s fun to watch. He’s one of those guys that when he gets into flight his jersey ripples. You can tell by my smile that we’re excited to have the kid because there’s such a potential to have a skill package at pick No. 20.”

“They liked my offense,” Bennett said. “I definitely bring some creativity to the game.  I can create off the right side or the left side. I definitely need to work on some things, as well, with my defensive play and strength. I think going forward I'll get better in some aspects.”

Though Bennett has played all three forward positions, the Penguins expect him to project best at wing.

“We found him to be more productive at wing,” Heinbuck said. “He was most effective on wing and that’s where we see him.”

Bennett (6-foot-1, 173 pounds) was born and raised in Gardena, attending Valley Christian High School in Cerritos. He started off playing roller hockey at the age of 3, but thanks to the sacrifices of his family, Bennett was able to work his way onto the ice.

“Huge sacrifice, mostly for the parents, actually,” said Bennett, who notched 58 points for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings in 2008-09. “They're doing all the driving. The rinks are spread out. There's about nine or 10 rinks throughout Southern California. We're driving, doing our homework in the car, getting dressed in the car. You definitely have to sacrifice a little of your social life. But you can do it if you have a passion for the game. All of us hockey players are willing to do it.”

Bennett, who will be attending the University of Denver in the fall, recorded the highest point total in the BCHL since Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs posted 128 in 2007. He became the first BCHL rookie to surpass 100 points in the last seven years.

With a combination of great work ethic, natural ability and potential, the Penguins are delighted to nab Bennett in the 2010 draft.

“He’s a driven kid and already has exceptional hands,” Heinbuck said. “With that work ethic, some grit, good skating and prolific skill, that’s what we’re excited about.”

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