Ducks’ 2022-23 Player Grades: Simon Benoit

With the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, the Anaheim Ducks are picking up the pieces of the worst year in franchise history. Their 23-47-12 record was the worst in the league, as their playoff drought has extended to five years. On June 28, the Ducks will have the second overall pick in the NHL Draft, adding a blue-chip prospect to an already-packed talent pool. But before we get to the draft, let’s take a look at some of the players already on the roster with some season grades. The first defenseman we’ll take a look at is Simon Benoit.

Related: Ducks’ 2022-23 Player Grades: Mason McTavish

Benoit was one of the few feel-good stories for the Ducks a year ago. An undrafted free agent from Quebec, he first came to Anaheim by way of a camp invite in 2018. After impressing coaches, he received an invite to training camp and eventually signed a deal to play in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls. His climb up the organization’s depth chart culminated with a chance to play on the Ducks last year. He held on to the job and appeared in 53 games, usurping Jacob Larsson and Josh Mahura in the process. But despite the encouraging rookie season, his sophomore year proved he is very much a work in progress.

Benoit Bad by Many Metrics

Anaheim was an awful defensive team in 2022-23. It’s nearly impossible to explain without sounding like an exaggeration, but their minus-129 goal differential was a top-to-bottom failure. Failing to truly offset the losses of Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm created a high-risk roster, and its poor deployment by the coaching staff did the players no favor, who, in turn, looked lost out on the ice.

Simon Benoit Anaheim Ducks
Simon Benoit, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Benoit was one of the players placed in sink-or-swim situations, and it was often to disastrous results. His metrics stand out, even on a roster where everyone’s numbers were poor. At even strength, his 33.58 high-danger chances for percentage means that nearly two-thirds of the high-danger chances were directed at his own net. Scoring rates even reflected poorly for Benoit, as his 3.46 goals allowed per 60 minutes was bottom-ten in the entire NHL. In the scarce situations that he was in the offensive zone, it rarely materialized into points. Benoit’s on-ice shooting percentage, a statistic reflecting a team’s shooting percentage when an individual is on the ice, was a meager 7.91 percent.

Beyond the numbers, there were situations where Benoit, as well as every other defenseman, looked lost on the ice. While some of the issues were related to having him paired with John Klingberg, there were plenty of instances of Benoit being the one to lose sight of their man for a tap-in goal. Additionally, he was one of seven Ducks players with over 60 penalty minutes. For a player who has worked for every inch, from being an undrafted camp invite to becoming an NHL regular, conceding goals and committing penalties that could be seen as “effort plays” is concerning.

A Potential Rebound with a Smaller Role

Entering the season with only 59 NHL games under his belt, Benoit was one of three Ducks’ players to log over 1500 minutes in all situations this year. After seldom seeing time on the penalty kill in his rookie year, he led the team in ice time while shorthanded in 2022-23. It was a massive leap in responsibility, and he came up short. Fortunately, Anaheim’s blue line is developing wonderfully at the lower levels, and the roster will look much more cohesive in the coming years. With the likes of Jamie Drysdale and Olen Zellweger providing offensive support from the blue line and Tyson Hinds and Drew Helleson restocking the penalty-killing unit, Benoit can return to a depth role that he’d be more comfortable with.

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Benoit’s sophomore season was challenging, and it was only made more difficult by the support around him. The optimistic perspective is he’s still a raw product, even if it’s unlikely he develops into a true shutdown defenseman. A mitigated role would be good for his development and, at worst, provides Anaheim with a cheap depth option while the defense continues to mature.

Grade: D-

Statistics courtesy of HockeyDB. Analytics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.

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