Beau Bennett will change everything for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Maybe that seems like a lot of pressure to heap onto a 22-year-old forward with a total of 38 games played in the NHL. Perhaps it stinks of hyperbole.
If the Chicago Blackhawks can literally have countdowns until Teuvo Teravainen makes his NHL debut and he can be hailed as the second coming of Patrick Kane, though, surely Pittsburgh Penguins fans aren't out of line when thinking about the difference Bennett could make as a third-line forward.
Sounds like it's almost Teuvo Time in CHI. Teravainen expected to debut Tues at home vs. DAL. May start at C between Saad and Smith.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 24, 2014
Chicago's golden child is 19 years old and was selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Bennett was taken at No. 20 in 2010. Both are considered top-end offensive prospects and both guys are known for their goal scoring work.
For Pittsburgh, Bennett adds another element to a lineup that has been shifting more than Carlos Mencia when he knows Joe Rogan is in the crowd.
With Pascal Dupuis likely out for the remainder of the season, the Penguins are in need of more scoring ability throughout the lineup.
When general manager Ray Shero drafted the slick forward in 2010, Bennett seemed destined to play on Evgeni Malkin's wing. That plan has likely changed since "Geno" has clicked so well with James Neal and Jussi Jokinen this season—his most frequent linemates according to Dobber Hockey—but that's a positive thing for Pittsburgh.
Heading into the trade deadline, Shero was looking to add depth scoring. He traded for Lee Stempniak and that's been a home run, while Marcel Goc has been a versatile and welcome addition to the fourth line and the penalty kill.
With Bennett playing in the AHL and ready to jump to the NHL soon, the Penguins could soon have a more dangerous third unit than they have iced all season.
When Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that they were looking to add Ryan Kesler at the trade deadline, it was in hopes that he'd revive the three-line rotation that pushed the Penguins to two consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances.
Bennett isn't nearly as established as Jordan Staal, but he could create the same kind of tough matchups for opposing coaches—especially if head coach Dan Bylsma learns from his mistakes and shakes up his lines every now and again during the postseason when the need is there.
Bennett is worth keeping an eye on because no one is quite sure what he can do once he's settled in at the NHL level. Injuries pushed him down the draft board to Pittsburgh in 2010 and have prevented him from cementing a role as a top-six forward for the Penguins.
There don't seem to be any openings there right now, but Bennett could become something that the team has been sorely lacking all year long: a go-to guy that skates bottom-six minutes.
He doesn't need to come to the team and lead it in scoring. A timely tally or two throughout a series could make a huge difference if the top two lines continue to produce like they have.
A third line of Brandon Sutter, Brian Gibbons and Bennett looks like a potentially dynamic trio. Dobber Hockey indicates that Sutter and Bennett played together a bit this season and they could find some chemistry in the playoffs.
Even if the two didn't click famously, this is a better-looking third line than one that includes Chuck Kobasew and Taylor Pyatt.
Players like that add injury depth, not scoring depth. The Penguins have needed a ton of the former this season, but will desperately need the latter if they run into a team like the Boston Bruins in the postseason.
The B's have one of the most formidable third lines in the league right now with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson flanking either Chris Kelly or Reilly Smith. That's the kind of top nine that the Penguins need to be able to counter.
With Bennett in the lineup, they're much closer to being able to do that than they were a few weeks ago.