With the Bruins announcing their Development Camp roster, we’re taking a look at some of the prospects who will be attending this year's practices. Today’s subject is defenseman Matt Benning of Northeastern.
There’s still one Benning left in Boston, even if the other shipped up to Vancouver. Matt, son of former Bruins assistant general manager Jim, was selected by Boston in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft. He kept things local choosing to play his college hockey at Northeastern. Many things about Matt are very Boston, even with his father now taking over the managerial reigns for the Canucks.
It wasn’t clear if Benning would in fact go the collegiate route at one point. He spent a couple of years playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League before going to the USHL and Dubuque instead of the NCAA as an 18-year-old.
The Fighting Saints went on to win the Clark Cup in Benning’s lone year where some pretty good talent surrounded him, including Northeastern teammates Mike Szmatula and John Stevens.
His offensive game began to pick up in that Dubuque season, as Benning posted 10 goals and 16 assists in 57 games. A year later, he became part of a strong freshman class that had Northeastern hovering around the top 10 ranked teams in the country all season, and nearly into the NCAA tournament.
The collegiate game is different than the USHL or any of the Canadian junior leagues, and Benning brought with him an edge seen less frequently in the college ranks. He plays physically, probably bigger than his six-foot frame. Whether it was policing Northeastern’s crease, or taking his man hard into the boards, Benning didn’t shy away from that aspect of the game.
Which isn’t to say his defensive game is without its faults. At times, Benning would look to make the physical play and lose gap control, or take himself out of position. Northeastern allowed one of the highest shot totals against in the nation, and while that’s not exclusively Benning’s fault, the Huskies defensemen struggled to get in shooting lanes, or simply separate their man from the puck.
Playing in the fast pace that college hockey brings, Benning’s skating ability improved over his first year. Once thought to be a weakness in the defenseman’s game, Benning wasn’t blowing past anyone on the ice, but his foot speed was rarely an issue.
Offensively, Benning’s game is still rounding out, but he’s got a decent shot that seemed to get through from the point more and more as the season went on. While Northeastern often went with five forwards on its top power play unit, Benning quarterbacked the second group, comprised of many freshmen. Two of his three goals last season came while playing on the man-advantage, and Benning’s ability to create his own shot is certainly a strength.
His game is still a work in progress, and with three years of eligibility remaining, it’s likely Benning will use most if not all of those to develop. Entering his sophomore season, Benning will be 20. Should he stay all four years, and Benning will turn 23 following the end of his senior season.