Bennett Skates with Malkin, Neal
On Tuesday afternoon, Penguins brass, coaches, players and fans got a possible glimpse of the future.
Bennett skated alongside NHL All-Stars Malkin and James Neal in a line combination at the open training camp practice at CONSOL Energy Center.
|Neal, Bennett and Malkin work together at Tuesday's practice|
“It’s a great experience,” Bennett, 21, said. “I’m just watching what those guys do and the pace that they play at. I’m taking it all in and trying to learn from it.”
Bennett may have skated with Malkin and Neal on Tuesday, but don’t mark his name in ink just yet. Eric Tangradi practiced in that role Sunday and Monday. Both Bennett and Tangradi will get a chance to show what they can do on that line at Wednesday’s Black and Gold Game – an intra-squad game.
“You’ll see Eric and will probably also see Beau play there as well,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Eric is not going to play every shift 5-on-5 with them (Wednesday), but he’ll start with Evgeni and James Neal. Beau Bennett is also on that team. You’ll see him step in there as well. They’ll share that responsibility.”
Bennett, who possess hockey smarts and incredible hands, played the last few months with the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He is the team’s leading scorer with 24 points (6G-18A) in 30 games.
“The first 10 games were a learning experience with the system,” he said. “These last 20 have been a good experience. I’ve learned the Penguins’ system; it’s fast-paced and north-south. I enjoy playing it a lot.”
And that playing time and learning experience will only help Bennett in his first NHL training camp – even if it is a short camp.
“It helps that I played some games this year and I’m in midseason form,” Bennett said. “It has been a treat to be here this week. It’s just a learning experience.
“When you think you’re working hard and going fast, there is a different level of speed out there. You just keep pushing yourself to up your game to that level. It helped me knowing that I need to improve a lot if I ever want to play at this level.”
And it’s possible Bennett could earn a spot in the Penguins’ lineup for Saturday’s season opener in Philadelphia.
“You have to prepare like you’re ready and give it all you got,” he said. “If that opportunity comes then I’ll try to take it in stride and do the best I can.”