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Prospect Profile: Simon Benoit
By Thomas Harrington
Simon Benoit did not start the season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization, though he was a part of the San Diego Gulls. At the end of September, it was announced that the Gulls had signed Benoit to a one-year, AHL only deal. However, his play was so good that he earned himself an NHL entry-level contract in March.
Benoit is an undrafted defenseman who came from the QMJHL, playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes for three seasons. He didn’t put up a ton of points in juniors, but he did increase his offensive output in every season that he was in the QMJHL. In the 2015-2016 season, his first year in Shawinigan, Benoit played in 55 games and scored just one goal and three points. The next year, he played in 64 games and scored two goals and 12 points. In his final season of juniors, Benoit played in 63 games and scored five goals and 28 points. For a player not known for his offensive output, that kind of steady production is exactly what teams want to see. More importantly, he played solidly in his own end of the ice.
Benoit spent all of this past season playing for the Gulls. On a team that featured NHL veterans like Korbinian Holzer, Luke Schenn, Jake Dotchin, and Andrej Sustr, as well as up and coming prospects that figure to have a bright NHL future like Josh Mahura and Jacob Larsson, Benoit led all San Diego defensemen with 65 games played. He was second in games played to only Chase De Leo on the Gulls’ roster. Overall, he scored two goals and 16 points, while being tied for the team lead with a +16 rating. Those numbers really show what an excellent rookie season that he had in the AHL and how much Dallas Eakins trusted him. While he usually didn’t play on the top pair, the fact is that he played in almost every game for the Gulls this past season.
Benoit played in all 16 Calder Cup Playoff games for the Gulls and recorded three assists. Benoit had one assist in each series. He picked up one against San Jose in game one, one against Bakersfield in game one, and one against Chicago in game five. A few more points from him would have been nice, but for a rookie not known for his scoring, that’s not terrible production. More importantly, he rarely looked overwhelmed or out of place on the ice.
Benoit isn’t going to be a top pairing defenseman, but he’s developed into a solid two-way player who has the potential to play in an NHL team’s top four someday. He’s certainly not there yet, but if he can progress in his second AHL season the way he did in juniors, the odds of him making it to the NHL will increase dramatically. After the Gulls had signed Benoit, I remember paying attention to him a lot early in the season, and he really impressed me, particularly with his skating ability and positioning. While neither was NHL caliber, he clearly has a strong foundation to build off of.
Work In Progress
Anaheim’s defense is still a work in progress. Currently, the top four will likely consist of Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, and Brendan Guhle, while the bottom pair has Holzer and Michael Del Zotto. Today the Ducks signed Del Zotto to a one-year deal for the 2019-20 season. The deal is one-way and worth $750,000 per several reports. On January 16th, 2019, Del Zotto was traded by the Canucks to the Ducks in exchange for Luke Schenn and a seventh-round pick in 2020. He appeared in 12 games in Anaheim, recording three assists last season. On February 25th, 2019 the Ducks traded Del Zotto to the Blues for a 2019 sixth-round draft pick.
Jaycob Megna and Andy Welinski have both left as free agents, while the Ducks brought in Jani Hakanpaa. I figure Anaheim’s bottom pair will likely consist of a rotation between Holzer, Hakanpaa, Del Zotto, and Larsson unless they make a deal for another defenseman closer to the start of the season. Mahura also has a chance to play with the Ducks as well. With so many players potentially in Anaheim for part or all of next season or gone, it could be a chance for Benoit to really step up and patrol San Diego’s top defensive pairing. There’s also a chance that he could make his NHL debut, but I think he’ll stay with the Gulls for the season.
Expectations for Benoit
My expectations for Benoit this coming season are very simple; build on what he did this past year. Put up a few more points, score a few more goals, and continue to evolve his overall defensive game. While it’s unlikely he makes his NHL debut this coming season, stranger things have happened, and depending on what else Anaheim chooses to do this summer and what injuries happen next year, I wouldn’t completely write the possibility off. Also, with Eakins as Anaheim’s new head coach, I think the odds of him getting a game or two in Anaheim have increased, given how much Eakins liked Benoit’s game in San Diego.
Benoit’s entry-level contract is for three years and will begin next season; he’ll be a restricted free agent when it ends. Given how far away that is, it’s hard to say what kind of contract he’ll be in line for then. If he improves over the next few years and shows that he can play in Anaheim, he’ll have played himself into a one-way deal. If not, the Ducks could prefer to keep him on a two-way contract, or even try and get him back on an AHL deal with San Diego.
Next up will be the prospect update on Mahura.
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July 11th, 2019