Zack Bennett is one of three rookies from Bay Roberts in the QMJHL, which opens play in two weeks’ time. Bennett is joined by his cousin, Dawson Mercer, on the Volts, while Kyle Petten has cracked the Halifax Mooseheads’ lineup.
Mercer, the eighth overall selection in the Q draft in June, was expected to play for Drummondville this season. The same cannot be said for Bennett, who was the 224th selection in the draft — Drummondville’s second-last pick — in the 13th round.
But the 17-year-old Bennett made the team, and there’s no secret as to how he went about things.
Hard work, and plenty of it.
Like Mercer, Bennett played at Bishops College, a prep school in Sherbrooke, Que. last season. He finished the year tipping the scales close to 230 pounds on a 6-1 frame.
Naturally, his coaches at Bishops and the Voltigeurs told Bennett he needed to lose weight, and to show up at camp weighing no more than 200 pounds.
“I was watching what I ate really, really closely,” he said. “But more than that, I worked out hard, day in and day out with Ryan Power (of Power Conditioning in St. John’s, who trains a stable of Newfoundland hockey players).
“I ran, and I worked out. It was something I had to do.”
Bennett reported to the Drummondville camp at 195 pounds.
Bennett brings size and a big shot to the Volts’ blueline. He had been a bit slow of foot in the past, but expects that to change with his commitment to conditioning.
“I’m a lot lighter on my feet, and I feel I’m able to do a lot of different things on the ice,” he said. “Put a 30-pound weight vest on and carry it around. You can imagine the difference.”
Mercer impressed at the QMJHL’s Gatorade Excellence Challenge in Boisbriand, Que., an annual tournament that brings together the top 16-year-olds from Atlantic Canada and Quebec to play in front of scouts and management from all 18 QMJHL teams.
Playing for Team Newfoundland and Labrador, Mercer led all scorers in the round-robin with four goals and nine assists in five games.
Petten stands only 5-7, but the Mooseheads liked what they saw in him. Halifax nabbed him in the sixth round, 95th overall.
Petten played the 2015-16 season at Athol Murray College in Wilcox, Sask., but returned home to skate in the provincial major midget circuit last season.
“We watched Petten play a lot last year and we liked him a lot,” Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell said. “We were surprised to get him where we did in the draft. We had him ranked a lot higher than the fifth round.”