Beau Bennett got injured in Pittsburgh in just every way possible for a hockey player to get hurt.
Injured in practice? Check.
Injured while celebrating a goal? Check
If you thought all that freak bad luck was over when the Penguins acquired a 3rd round pick in 2016 from the New Jersey Devils for Bennett, well guess again. The Pens are about to lose that prospect’s rights officially, rights they no longer want due to, what else, a series of unfortunate injuries.
With 10 days to go, attached is the current list of previously drafted players who must be signed to an Entry Level contract by June 1 @ 5pm EST by their respective clubs.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) May 22, 2018
If left unsigned, the drafting club will lose their signing rights to these players. pic.twitter.com/Q3pAvS0rN3
That’s no oversight, the Pens won’t be signing Connor Hall and will have this 3rd round pick go up in smoke. In a way Pens fans have been spoiled of late with 3rd rounders as Pittsburgh had dug up Jake Guentzel (#77 overall in 2013) and Matt Murray (#83 in 2012) in this round, but mathematically it’s very much an uphill battle to get NHL value out of a 3rd rounder, with most falling by the wayside. Data shows where Hall was drafted only allowed a 27% chance of playing 100 NHL games and an 8% chance of developing into a top-4 defenseman.
Unfortunately, Hall will be on the wrong side of the long list. At 6’4 and once called a “throwback” defenseman by his junior coach (former Penguin player) Jay McKee, Hall had a lot of promise when drafted. He had just played for Team Canada’s U-18 team and figured to be a key part of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
His pivotal draft+1 season though was cut short. Hall only played 17 games before undergoing a shoulder surgery that ended his season. The Pens brought him to Wilkes-Barre in spring 2017 on an amateur tryout, he didn’t play any games, they just wanted him with the team and to gauge his progress from healing and rehabbing.
With a seemingly clear slate, Hall was ready last summer at Pens prospect camp in July to show he had his injury woes behind him, telling Alan Saunders of the Beaver County Times:
“I’ve learned a lot so far over this past year,” Hall said Friday. “Being injured really helped me persevere and get better and get back to strength. Just being able to work on that hockey sense and get back to that game shape is going to help me for sure.”
“I need to have a good start to next season to prepare myself for the whole year,” he said. “I’m going to try and play a whole season, work my way up and be on an uphill sprint the whole time.”
And for a while it looked like it might have been working. A March 2018 survey of coaches named Hall as the 3rd best defensive defensemen in the Western Conference of the OHL. Not exactly a Norris trophy, but still, nice recognition that he was among the best of his peers at his element of his game at the junior level.
The week after that survey came out, however, it was announced Hall’s season was over for the second straight year with another shoulder injury and surgery was needed for the same shoulder, which cost him games in December 2017 and February 2018. After returning, it popped out yet again on March 11th and by the end of the month Hall didn’t have much of a choice but to undergo another surgery.
“It was a tough decision for me to make but one that had to be made for my future,” he said. “Everyone knows I’d be one of the first guys that would want to play in the playoffs. It’s my kind of hockey.”
That appears to have placed the nail in the coffin of his Pens professional career, sadly over before it got a chance to start. Shoulder injuries for defensemen are odd, they can wreck careers (/pours out a bit of a 40 for Josef Melichar) or just end up a minor speed bump (Olli Maatta had two surgeries in 2014 and 2015 that are luckily mostly forgotten about now!). They can be a tricky thing, but the one constant for Hall was the recurring shoulder coming out of socket. Sucks big time, and hopefully he heals up and gets a chance to live out his dreams of playing pro.
Unfortunately, and perhaps fittingly, the Pens are about to close the book on the Beau Bennett trade and won’t have anything but pain to show for it.