The Penguins have rotated multiple players in and out of the spot alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, from Eric Tangradi (now traded) to Zach Boychuk and, most recently, Matt Cooke.
Their latest call-up seems destined to get a chance to audition there.
The Penguins and general manager Ray Shero announced Thursday morning that they had recalled 21-year-old forward Beau Bennett from their AHL club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Bennett, the 20th overall selection in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft, has been productive in his first professional season, putting up seven goals and 18 assists in 35 games with the Baby Pens. Prior to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s trade acquisition of Chad Kolarik, Bennett was leading the Penguins’ primary farm team in scoring.
Bennett led the junior-level British Columbia Hockey League with 41 goals and 120 points during the 2009-10 season, leading the Penguins to take the 6-foot-1 righthanded shooter with their first pick in that summer’s draft.
Bennett was the first California born-and-raised NHL prospect to be drafted in the top 20. He played two seasons at the University of Denver before making his AHL debut in October.
If this year’s Penguins training camp had been its usual length, Bennett may have started the season in the NHL, but as it turned out he only had to wait a few extra weeks to get the call from Shero.
According to Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bennett and Penguins director of player development Bill Guerin spent Wednesday night in a CONSOL Energy Center press-level box as the Pens beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Perhaps the two were discussing strategies for success at the NHL level, especially while playing with elite talents like Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Neal.
As Matt Shetler and others have written, the left wingers on Malkin’s line through 14 games this season have combined to score just one point, which arrived when Cooke assisted on Neal’s third-period goal Wednesday.
Bennett has the stickhandling and shooting ability to fit right in on an NHL scoring line. We’ll find out soon if (and when) he’ll get that opportunity.