This past week in the world of hockey has been one of the busiest ones for Washington Capitals prospect, defenseman Benton Maass.
Just six days ago, Maass was selected 182nd overall by Washington in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. In one night, his life completely changed — after playing with his high school team in Minnesota for most of this past season, Maass found himself part of an NHL organization.
“It kind of still feels a little bit surreal,” Maass said. “I was going from playing high school and junior hockey to now being at [camp] as a prospect for one of the best teams in the NHL… at this point, I’m still just trying to grasp it all and just trying to fit in the best that I can and work hard.”
Maass at a Glance
The 18-year-old blueliner had a breakout year with Elk River High School, posting six goals and 29 points in just 25 games this year. He also got time to play with the NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs, and while there he registered seven goals and 16 points through 26 games. With a breakout year and proven ability, Washington was wise to select him, their third defensive pick in the draft.
Maass has shown tremendous puck-moving potential, and that is something that the Capitals want out of their defensive prospects. Not only is he a smooth skater and strong passer, but he isn’t afraid to take the puck and run with it. He also possesses a booming point shot and can rip the puck when he wants to. As a right-handed defenseman in an organization looking for more blue line depth, especially when it comes to puck-movers and potential power-play quarterbacks.
Though he plays an offense-driven game, Maass is also solid defensively. He is able to use his size and speed to his advantage and is always sure to look after the puck. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound defenseman also knows his role on the ice and is sure to balance both his offensive and defensive game.
According to Maass, he believes the best attribute he brings to camp is his “hockey sense.”
“I’m pretty calm with the puck under pressure and I know when to make the right play,” Maass said.
Adjusting to the big league
Coming into camp, Maass knew that the bar would be raised. He was playing NHL-level hockey for the first time, with not only new prospects like himself but returning players who have gone through the same grind and have advanced further up in the organization.
Washington pulled out all of the stops on the very first day, having players skate laps, stick-handle through cones, take shots on net and practice 2-on-2 scenarios. Maass stepped up and showed that he can keep up with the speed of camp. However, while skating alongside his fellow prospects, as well as tasting NHL-calibre hockey for the first time, Maass recognized that the game was not only different from his own hockey experience but on a completely different level.
“It’s a lot faster game, more physical and it just takes a little bit to get used to,” he said. “I think throughout the week it’s just going to continue to get a little easier and the speed will become a little bit more of a normal for me.”
Set to play with the NCAA’s University of New Hampshire this coming season, Maass is working on elevating his game so that he is ready to transition to college hockey. He already shows outstanding skating ability and follows plays well, and his offensive calibre should be an asset that makes him stand out.
The DC experience so far
After he was drafted in the sixth round, Maass knew that he would be joining one of the top teams and annual contenders in the NHL. However, he didn’t get a true taste of how large the fanbase was until the first day of camp Tuesday. Hundreds of fans packed Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the opening day of camp, as well as the annual “Fan Fest.”
“We were just practicing and there were around 200 people watching. That’s not something you see every day.”
This week’s stint at development camp also marks the first time Maass has paid a visit to the Nation’s Capital. In addition to strengthening his game and getting the most out of his first camp, he hopes to tour D.C. and see more than the Washington Monument, a site he can see from his hotel window.
“I haven’t gotten to see too much of D.C. yet so hopefully I’ll get to go out one of these nights and go look at the monuments, that’s one of the big things I wanted to see.”
As Maass continues to work through camp, he will gain a lot of experience, but already is showing promise and upside in just the first couple of days in D.C.