MONTREAL — Mac Bennett has been to the Canadiens’ development camp on several occasions, but says this year’s camp is different.
Every other time, I’ve been here for a week and when it’s over, I’m headed back to Michigan,” Bennett said after a practice session at the development camp in Brossard. “This year, I know that when September rolls around, I’ll be going to the Canadiens camp.”
The Canadiens drafted Bennett in the third round (79th overall) in 2009 after a successful prep career at the Hotchkiss School. He was on the small side but the Canadiens expected that he would add weight and strength playing for former NHLer Red Berenson at the University of Michigan.
Four years later, Bennett appears ripped as he launches his pro career. He stands 6-foot tall and tips the scales at close to 200 pounds. Earlier this year, he was recognized as one of the best-conditioned hockey players in the U.S. by an association of strength and conditioning coaches.
“Don’t get me wrong, I loved Michigan, but I’m happy to have the chance to move on,” said Bennett, who left Michigan with a degree in musicology.
There were suggestions Bennett would leave after his junior year, but he stayed and served as the team captain. The Wolverines are a perennial power in U.S. college hockey but the season was a disappointment and that may have been because Bennett missed six games at the end of the regular season after he injured his shoulder in a match against Penn State.
The original prognosis was that Bennett was finished for the season, but he returned in time for the Big 10 tournament.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent, but I was the captain, and I felt I had to be out there,” Bennett said. “We needed a win over Penn State to advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen but we lost 2-1 in double overtime.”
Bennett is pencilled in for action with the Hamilton Bulldogs and that means a possible reunion with Greg Pateryn, who was his defence partner at Michigan three years ago. At this stage, it would be more of a dream pairing for Bennett than for Pateryn, who has his eyes on NHL employment. Pateryn has a two-way contract for next season, but it becomes a one-way deal in 2015-16.
While Bennett is leaving university behind, it’s in the future for Nikolas Koberstein, who hopes his career path follows that of Bennett.
The Canadiens took a flyer on Koberstein in last month’s draft, trading up to select him in the fifth round (125th overall). Like Bennett, Koberstein needs time to fill out his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. Trevor Timmins, the director of amateur scouting, described Koberstein as a five-year project.
That means he’ll spend one more season with the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey or in the USHL — “That’s to be determined,” said Koberstein — and then four years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
“College was always in my plans,” said Koberstein, who was ranked No. 205 by Central Scouting going into the draft. “My father is an engineer and education has always been important in our family. I also thought that I needed that time in college to develop physically.”
The development camp continues through Friday in Brossard. There are daily training sessions open to the public between 9:30 a.m. and noon and the camp concludes with a three-period scrimmage Friday morning.
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