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Prospect Update: Simon Benoit
By Thomas Harrington
An undrafted free agent who initially signed an AHL-only contract with the Gulls, Simon Benoit finished his third professional season this year and made his NHL debut late in the season.
Benoit’s third professional season was a very successful one. He played in 38 games for the Gulls and scored one goal and eight points. Those numbers represent a small drop in offensive production from the previous two years, but Benoit isn’t on the ice to score the big goal, he’s on the ice to stop it.
For the past two seasons, he’s been my dark horse candidate to get time in the NHL. The previous season, he had been called up to the Ducks but didn’t get any game action. In late April, he was called up to Anaheim and made his NHL debut against Los Angeles on April 28th. Overall, he played in six games with the Ducks and was scoreless. He played between 15:02 and 20:31 in those six games. He also saw a decent amount of time on the penalty kill, averaging 1:38 of shorthanded ice time per game in his six games, which was only six seconds less than what Hampus Lindholm averaged. Benoit returned to San Diego for the Pacific Division tournament and played in all three games. He finished the tournament with an assist.
My expectations for Benoit from last summer were simple: to be better than he was in the 2019-2020 season. While his offensive numbers dropped, I do think his overall game did improve, especially since he was called up and made his NHL debut, getting NHL time over other players with more NHL experience. I didn’t expect him to play a lot with Anaheim, but six games was a nice surprise; I was thinking he’d get only a game or two.
This coming season, Benoit will likely be in San Diego again, but he’ll be in the mix for the sixth or seventh defensive spot in Anaheim. Right now, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jacob Larsson, and Haydn Fleury are all on one-way contracts. Jamie Drysdale is looking like he’s ready for a full time NHL job, while Josh Mahura and Brendan Guhle will both be trying to prove they should be in the NHL. That’s to say nothing of who the Ducks could sign in free agency, or, if Owen Power drops to Anaheim at third overall in the draft, he could have a chance to make the team out of camp.
With that in mind, Benoit is going to really have his work cut out for him. I don’t expect him to be with Anaheim all season, but I do expect him to get some NHL games again. When he’s in the AHL, I want him to continue to be a physical presence on their blueline, and a few more points would be nice as well.
Benoit will never be known for his offensive contributions. He’s more known for solid defensive play and thundering hits. As a result, he certainly won’t ever be a top pairing defenseman, and probably not even a top four guy. However, he’s the kind of player who a coach can trust on the bottom pair or as a team’s seventh or eighth defenseman.
Benoit has one year left on his entry-level deal, and he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. I do expect him to be re-signed in a year, but unless he surprises and is with the Ducks all season, I don’t think he’ll get a long-term deal or even a one-way contract. I’d expect him to get a two-way deal for a year or two. Benoit is a solid prospect, but he’s not at the point where the Ducks are thinking of committing to him on a long-term basis. He probably never will be, and that’s okay. He’s improved significantly in his time with San Diego, and I’m hoping he remains a fixture on their blueline for years to come.
The next prospect update will be on Lukas Dostal.
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July 17th, 2021