#9 / Center
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 195 | Born: June 20, 1996
Birthplace: Holland Landing, ON, CA | Acquired: Traded from Calgary for Emil Heinemann and 2022 Round 2 draft pick
Assets: A highly skilled player, he also displays very good two-way acumen and the competitive fire of a future captain. Will also show a feisty side that’s tough to play against. Can play either wing or center.
Flaws: Will need to get significantly stronger if he is to continue to play his abrasive style in the long run at the NHL level. Also, he must prove himself as a goal-scorer in the pros. Needs more defensive work to play center.
Career Potential: Solid, feisty forward and secondary scoring option.
Why you should know who he is: Once an afterthought in Calgary, Bennett is the prototypical “he just needed a change of scenery” player, putting up the best numbers of his career since arriving in Florida last spring. As the team’s second-line center, he is part of Florida’s potent secondary scoring, and was one of the six players to crack 20 goals (and was just two shy of hitting 30) in the 2021-22 campaign.
He’s also kind of a pest, with the Panthers’ third-highest PIM total (but also the third-highest rate of drawn penalties on the team) - and a bit of an edge, earning himself a three-game suspension back in January for a hit on Montreal’s Cedric Paquette and a one-game suspension last spring in the Panthers’ first-round series vs. Tampa.
How the Caps can stop him: It’ll be interesting to see how Laviolette plays his matchups - none of which will be easy in this series - because in the three games against the Panthers he’s changed up who takes on Florida’s top two lines, alternating power vs. power and a steady diet of the fourth line. Whatever matchup he decides on, they’ll have their work cut out for them trying to contain Bennett and his linemates (which often includes Jonathan Huberdeau, aka a guy with 115 points this season). They’ll need committed defensive play from both the forwards and the defensemen to make sure that the Cats’ second line doesn’t become a concern.