Michael Benning Prospect Scouting Report
2018-19 Team: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) (#92)
Date of Birth: January 5, 2002
Place of Birth: St. Albert, Alberta
Ht: 5’9”/175cm Wt:170/77 lbs/kg
Projected Draft Position: #45
Michael Benning is an all around dman with a strong defensive game and developing offensive game. Benning’s key strengths are that he understands the game situationally, with strong NHL bloodlines, and his competitiveness. His hockey IQ allows him to process situational information quickly and accurately on the ice which, in turn, facilitates his game in transition. Known primarily as a defensive dman prior to this past season, his game has taken on a very noticeable offensive direction recently and has become known as a point producer from the backend. Though somewhat undersized, his size doesn’t limit him on the ice and he defends as well as attacks with gusto, generally not backing away from bigger opponents. Given his current and expected development paths, in addition to NHL pedigree, there is every reason to suggest that he will be drafted high in the 2020 draft, likely within the first two rounds.
Benning has excellent hockey sense and has shown a discernible ability to recognize on ice situations relative to his position; in other words, he generally realizes when he’s out of position and attempts to correct his positioning. He demonstrates poise, patience, and confidence in all areas of the ice, able and willing to take chances to make a play without over committing. Overall, it is quite evident that he has been developed well on playing his role in a wide variety of one ice situations
Benning is an excellent skater. He possesses a fluid stride and demonstrates strong edgework to facilitate lateral movements. His movements with and without the puck are uninhibited and quick, allowing him to effectively close gaps as well as create space. Overall, his skating is so good because it is technically sound, with appropriate bend in the knees and balanced strides that allow him adjust as necessary on the ice.
Puck Skills & Puck Movement
Benning demonstrates very good puck skills and movement, able and willing to be a puck transporter as well as having the play run through him, whether as a passer or the shot taker. Currently, he appears to prefer to set up the shot for teammates, but has shown acumen for taking the shot when required. Control of passes and shots is very good; passes are receivable by teammates and shots get through to net. He has been a focal point of his team’s possession game due to being able to control and move the puck.
Shooting The Puck
At this stage of his development, Benning is more a passer than a shooter, though he has displayed an ability to get off a quick and accurate shot when required. At least part of the reason for this likely has to do with the fact that he is one of the primary play-makers for his team at this time, so the possibility that he may become more of a shooter moving forward does exist. Certainly, he doesn’t shy away from taking shots when required, but it is a skill that will require further development to be considered a part of his game.
Somewhat a smaller player, Benning isn’t known for his physicality, though he doesn’t appear to shy away from controlled physical contact whether he’s giving a hit or taking one. Regardless, physical commitment isn’t an issue and he appears to have been well coached in the skill of soft contact to contain opponents, rather than looking for bodychecks to contain them. This ability is accentuated by his skating and positioning.
Benning’s effort and commitment to the defensive aspect of the game is strong though, as can be with defencemen of his age, awareness is sometimes lacking, primarily against bigger, stronger, more experienced opponents. It is evident that he understands how to position his body and stick in defensive assignments. One area of development may be in blocking off shooting lanes by learning how and when to block shots, for example. Other than that, like other parts of his game, his commitment and execution while defending is good.
For me, a comparable range would be somewhere between Jared Spurgeon and Brian Rafalski.