While Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Beau Bennett is without a doubt the future for the organization, the question now is will he play on the second or third-line this season?
Bennett, 21, is a registered right winger, and due to James Neal switching over to left wing, Malkin now has a spot opened up for the young California-native.
The only discrepancy is that by slotting Bennett on the second-line, will it create an unbalanced structure to how the rest of the lineup shakes out?
Besides center Brandon Sutter, there really isn’t a whole lot of potential offensive threats on the bottom two lines — which means the best chance the team will score is via the top-six forwards.
However, Bennett also might not thrive as much offensively if he were to be put on the third-line, potentially giving leeway to the infamous “sophomore slump” branding.
Should he be placed on the second-line, the chances of him succeeding are high because of who he’ll be skating alongside.
Last season when he was called up, Bennett saw action on both Malkin and Sutter’s respected lines.
He had more ascendance on Malkin’s second-line than Sutter’s, but Jussi Jokinen also prospered when he played with the top-six forwards — meaning that last slot could come down to either him or Bennett.
Jokinen is a left-wing, so Bennett’s odds on making the second-line seem to be in his favor; however, because Jokinen plays so well with the top-six forwards, the team might consider keeping him up there.
The only problem is Jokinen’s contract is up after this upcoming 2013-14 campaign, and the organization might want to get Bennett acclimated to the second-line now for future endeavors.
Building a chemistry with Malkin is crucial, because almost every season — with exception to James Neal — he has had a new winger.
Matt Cooke, Ruslan Fedotenko, Dustin Jeffrey, and Eric Tangradi — to name a few — have all paired up with Malkin, and all haven’t been able to create longevity.
Bennett is a smooth skating offensively minded winger, who makes smart decisions and gets to the open ice — which is exactly the type of player Malkin needs in the long run.
But because the Pens are so shorthanded when it comes to forward depth, they may want to reconsider slotting him on the second and placing him on the third — so that means sequentially putting Jokinen with Malkin.
Either way, Bennett is going to make a positive impact — ultimately, it’s all about where they feel they’re going to maximize Jokinen’s play.
In 26 regular-season games last season, Bennett produced 14 points (3G, 11A) and skated to a solid plus-7 rating.
He also played in six postseason contests, where he scored one goal (the first of the playoffs for Pittsburgh) and skated to a plus-2 rating.
Before he was called up, he scored 28 points (7G, 21A) in 39 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and was selected to play in the AHL All-Star Classic.