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Graduated Prospect: Simon Benoit
By Thomas Harrington
Simon Benoit made his NHL debut in the 2020-2021 season, playing six games for Anaheim. This past season he was one of 10 rookies to play for the Ducks, and his 53 games ranked third on the team, behind only Jamie Drysdale and Trevor Zegras.
Benoit is certainly not a player known for his offensive exploits; he scored only one goal and five points this past season. Instead, he’s more known for his physical play. His 168 hits were second to only Nicolas Deslaurier on the team. Sam Carrick was a distant third with 122. In the entire NHL, he was fourth in hits among rookies and 21st among all defensemen. When Anaheim’s blueline was fully healthy (and before Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson were traded away at the trade deadline), he and Josh Mahura split time on the team’s bottom pairing next to Kevin Shattenkirk.
Benoit did play in one AHL game at the start of the season in mid-October, but he was called up to Anaheim and didn’t play any other regular season AHL games. He was reassigned to the Gulls for their playoff series against Ontario and went scoreless in two games. Benoit played on the team’s top pairing and saw time on the penalty kill.
Though primarily used on Anaheim’s bottom pairing, Benoit did play more than 17 minutes seven times, with his season high of 19 minutes coming against Florida. He had stretches of very good play but was inconsistent over the course of the season, leading to him being a healthy scratch many nights. Benoit also played a decent amount on Anaheim’s penalty kill unit, and was sixth on the team in average ice-time among defensemen who played at least 20 games with the Ducks.
Last summer, I expected Benoit to get more time in the NHL, but I also expected him to still see significant time in the AHL. Well, playing one AHL regular season game and two Calder Cup Playoffs games but 53 NHL games more than surpassed my expectations for him. He’ll never be a top-end defenseman, but he’s a physical player who fits in nicely on a team’s bottom pair.
This coming season, Anaheim’s blueline will likely look vastly different. As of right now, only Cam Fowler is signed beyond next year. While Benoit won’t be given a spot on the team’s bottom pairing outright, there will absolutely be an opportunity for him to win a spot on the team’s bottom pairing and appear in more than the 53 games he played in this past season.
Benoit is a restricted free agent this summer, and while the Ducks could choose to not qualify him and let him leave as a free agent, I think they’ll probably re-sign him. It will probably be a short one- or two-year deal. I also think that Benoit has earned a one-way contract at this point. He’s shown that he can play at the NHL level and work as a team’s sixth or seventh defenseman.
The next graduated prospect will be on Urho Vaakanainen.
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June 19th, 2022