By Thomas Harrington
Simon Benoit completed his second season as a member of the San Diego Gulls, but it was his first season as a member of the Anaheim Ducks organization. He spent his first season in San Diego on an AHL-only deal but played well enough for Anaheim to sign him to an entry-level contract which began this past season.
Benoit’s second professional season saw him build on his rookie season. After scoring two goals and 16 points in 65 games, he increased his totals to four goals and 19 points in 56 games. While that’s not a large increase, for a player not known for his offensive contributions, that’s pretty good progress. He’s much better known for his physical play, something that continued this past season. Benoit also increased his shots from 72 to 75. Given that he played in nine fewer games, this shows how much more involved he was on the offensive end of the ice. He spent most of his time on San Diego’s second pairing, though he played some time on all three defensive pairings.
Benoit was my dark horse candidate to make his NHL debut last season. While that didn’t happen, he was called up to Anaheim in mid-November. He didn’t play in any games with the Ducks and was returned to the AHL a couple days later. Still, it shows that Anaheim does think he has an NHL future since they brought him up to the NHL to possibly play if someone else wasn’t able to go.
My expectations for Benoit from a year ago were simple, for him to build on what he did in his rookie year. I wanted a few more goals and points, and for his defensive game to continue to improve. Safe to say he met those expectations from a year ago. His offensive numbers increased and his defensive game improved, as evidenced by how much time he spent in San Diego’s top four.
This coming season, Benoit will be returning to San Diego. The Gulls have already lost Chris Wideman and Joel Persson, while Jacob Larsson, Brendan Guhle, Josh Mahura, and Jani Hakanpaa all hope to play more in the NHL next season. That means it’s going to be very hard for Benoit to carve out a spot on Anaheim’s blueline, but he’ll have an excellent chance to really step up and become one of San Diego’s top blueliners.
My expectation for Benoit this coming season is simple, be better than he was during the 2019-2020 season. That means I want to see him once again increase his offensive production, but to also step up and play on the team’s top pairing more than he has previously. While I don’t think he’ll get a lot of time in Anaheim, I do want him to get called up again, but this time, I’d like to see him make his NHL debut.
Given how many NHL bodies are competing for a spot on Anaheim’s blueline, and given that Benoit still needs to improve his overall game, he’s still at least a year or two from having a real shot at being an everyday NHL player. He may not even get there, and if he does, it will likely be on a team’s bottom pairing, but Benoit has shown that he’s not one to give up. As an undrafted player, the odds have been against him from the day he started in San Diego, and he’s been able to deal with everything sent his way so far.
Benoit has two years left on his entry-level deal and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it expires. Given how much he’s improved during his time in San Diego, I fully expect Anaheim to re-sign him. It won’t be a long term deal, and I think it will likely be on a two-way deal, but the Ducks and head coach Dallas Eakins like his game and have hope for his future. As long as Benoit’s game doesn’t severely deteriorate, he should be a fixture in San Diego or Anaheim for a number of years to come.
The next prospect update will be on Antoine Morand.
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August 25th, 2020