Bennett MacArthur is relentless, there’s no other way to describe the player and person. The Summerside, Prince Edward Island product’s unconventional path in the game reads more like a Hollywood script than a hockey story.
MacArthur’s journey would rival any drama possessing more plot twists than any high budget thrillers. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, MacArthur’s unrelenting pursuit of his hockey dream could in fact propel him to hockey’s highest level.
“Never say never,” is about as cliché as it gets, but that approach has fuelled Bennett MacArthur throughout his entire career. The talented scoring winger took his game to new heights this season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. You see that’s why his story is so intriguing, he was never supposed to make it.
The “road less travelled” or “late bloomer” type stories are always well documented, but they never get old. It might be hard to believe just how far the 20-year-old power forward has come in such a short time. Hard to believe for some, but not for MacArthur and those that know him best. Deep down they all knew he could get there it was all a matter of opportunity and timing.
From undrafted free agent signee, to one of the most feared snipers in the QMJHL, MacArthur’s growth and progression is directly correlated to his relentless drive and will to compete.
Over the years many young aspiring hockey players from this region have used the Maritime Hockey League, the regions Jr. “A” circuit as a spring board to the next level. MacArthur’s stay in the league with the Summerside Western Capitals may have been short lived, but extremely impactful nonetheless.
In 30 games with the Caps in 2019-2020, MacArthur had 21 goals and 20 assists.
“Bennett is a player that has preserved, through determination and a belief in himself,” said Caps Head Coach Billy McGuigan.
“Bennett has the ability to score goals, from flank on the power play with a pro one timer, with speed and strength off the rush.”
“He can take the puck from below the goal, attacking net versus a defender, in tight or net front tip, he can do it all,” McGuigan said.
“Bennett has a high IQ and has learned to use his size and skill to produce offence at every level. He defends well and understands defensive posture and has a good stick.”
“I could write a book on Bennett. His path is a long route, but he’s been patient and he always believed in himself.”
“My time with Billy and the Capitals wasn’t overly long, but that short time allowed me to learn and adapt to the Junior level,” said MacArthur.
“Billy is a big part of my development as a player, he pushed me to be quicker and get to the middle of the ice and the dirty areas.”
“Billy is passionate and puts in a lot of time and effort with his team which has had good success since he’s been there.”
“I developed well there, and it’s nice to see guys like Jordan Spence and Zach Biggar who went through the program having success at the next level as well,” added MacArthur.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan elected to sign the 5’11, 195-pound winger at the midway point last season. The knock or perceived weakness on MacArthur has always been his skating or lack of speed. That certainly hasn’t been the case.
“Bennett like a lot of players who were never drafted sometimes struggle with their understanding of how good they are,” said Titan Assistant General Manager Roger Shannon.
“When he left Summerside in late fall 2019 it was not an easy decision as they were a championship caliber team at the time. Bennett made a tough decision knowing we were not at a point in our progression where we were strong, but he followed his heart and took a leap of faith.”
“His work ethic paid off,” stressed Shannon.
“His leap of faith paid off and now he has great promise. He stuck with it.”
“Hockey players need stick-to-itiveness, if they are going to make it,” said Shannon.
In 33 games last year with the Titan, MacArthur had eight goals and four assists. This year he easily eclipsed that mark scoring 28 goals while addined 12 assists. In nine playoff games, he found the back of the net six times and five assists.
“During my two years of Q draft eligibility, no teams took a chance on me because they were scared I didn’t have the speed to play in the Q,” said MacArthur.
“I definitely used that as motivation to improve my skating, and whenever I got a chance I was working on it.”
“I worked hard on getting in better shape and felt a lot more explosive on the ice following a couple of intense summers of training.”
“Last year, the second half of the season was about getting into the league and learning how to be successful. I came into this season with a lot of confidence and in the best shape of my life,” confessed MacArthur.
“After many years of skating being the attribute that held me back, I thought my speed was a big part of my game this year and helped me succeed,” MacArthur said.
“I think my two-hundred-foot game has improved the most since I started in Bathurst.”
“It’s so important at the next level, I take pride in my defensive game.”
“I’ve always liked to score goals and create plays in the o-zone, but I’ve taken a big step to becoming a complete player,” admitted MacArthur.
MacArthur’s innate ability to find open ice in the offensive zone coupled with his lethal shot will undoubtedly translate to the pro game. Did MacArthur feel that he surpassed his own expectations this season?
“Coming into this year, I expected myself to be an effective player every night, and for me being an effective player means producing offensively and being reliable defensively.”
“The offensive production always feels good, and I think my two-hundred-foot game created more opportunities for me in the o-zone.”
“As far as next year, I expect big things from our team and myself.”
“We have a really special group in Bathurst and we believe we can win a championship next year.”
“Personally, speaking I need to make sure I’m always playing with high energy because that’s when I’m most effective.”
MacArthur points to a collection of different coaches that have helped throughout his unconventional path in the game.
“It’s hard to pick out one coach who has helped me the most during my journey.”
“Rodney MacArthur paved the way for me in minor hockey. I can’t say enough about his impact on me. He knew how to get the most out of our teams and that lead to a lot of championships.”
“Rodney was all about moving the puck quick and playing with respect. When we were up big in games, he would make our team pass it five times before we could shoot. That’s just an example of the type of coach he was.”
“Jeff Lewis has also been another key leader for me.”
“I went to Rothesay Netherwood School the year following my QMJHL draft when I went undrafted.”
“Looking back, it was an important step in my hockey path. Having that year with Jeff was huge for me.”
“He pushed me to believe in myself and continue working towards my goals, which was key following a disappointing situation.”
“Jeff gave me confidence and continued to make me aware of my potential. I grew a lot both in hockey and as a person that year,” MacArthur said proudly.
“Bennett came to RNS in Grade 11 following his QMJHL draft year and was really motivated after going through the draft without being selected,” said RNS Head Coach Jeff Lewis.
“When he arrived on campus in September 2017 he was in great physical shape and you could tell he had something to prove.”
“The unique thing about Bennett is I don’t think it was ever about proving ‘nah-sayers’ wrong, as much as it was about proving to himself that he can play at the next level.”
“He always believed in himself. He was always humble & hungry.”
“Benny was never arrogant, he was always grounded and mature, but at the same time he had a belief in himself and followed it with relentless action.”
“He was always in the weight room and wanting to get on the ice any time he could. He would often be shooting pucks on the tennis court and was always a model student-athlete,” Lewis said.
“For some reason Benny had a knock on his game. I’m not sure if it was his skating or conditioning or a combination of the two, but he started working on both of these areas more consistently and started to see improvements quickly.”
“What I was always so impressed with was his hockey IQ, his ability to read the play and to get into good spots on the ice and then his ‘wow-factor’ is his hand, shot and natural offensive instincts.”
“He has grown into a great two-hundred-foot player, but still has that ability to score goals and make plays at a high level.”
“After having the privilege of working with Bennett for a year it doesn’t surprise me at all to see what he’s doing,” stressed Lewis.
“He is smart, dedicated, driven and comes from a great family. Im so happy for him to be getting rewarded for all his hard work and I know how bad he wants it.”
“Its also such a great story for young players to see. If you truly want something, you have to be able to adjust, adapt and dedicate yourself to your goals.”
“Kyle Dunn is another coach that has helped me out a lot. Before making the jump to Junior, Kyle gave me lots of opportunity to showcase my skill and he’s been supportive through my junior career.”
From a playing perspective, MacArthur is quick to credit a fellow Islander as a great role model.
“I was fortunate to get to play with Noah Dobson for a few years in the minor hockey ranks. I always looked up to Noah. He was a great leader and always had outstanding habits.”
“I knew he was going to be a special player.”
All of the sacrifices that MacArthur’s parents are certainly not lost on the mature well-spoken forward.
“My parents have made so many sacrifices to help me throughout my career. They’ve given me every chance to succeed in hockey and I’m very grateful for that.”
“They’re always in my corner and support me every step of the way. They pushed me to stay focused and continue to work towards my goals.”
“It’s really nice that they get to enjoy watching me play a high level of hockey,” MacArthur said.
What advice would MacArthur serve up to other young players that may have gone undrafted or are late bloomers?
“I would say don’t let it bring you down.”
“Use that as motivation, work hard in the gym and keep working on your game.”
“Some players take longer to develop, but there’s no need to panic.”
“For me, it was just about getting a chance to prove myself at camp as a free agent. Once you’re there, you have just as good of a chance as anyone else,” stressed MacArthur.
Through it all he has never forgotten the true value of hard work and dedication. Persistence and perseverance continue to define Bennett MacArthur’s memorable journey in the game.
MacArthur’s efforts have him projected to be a potential 5th or 6th round selection amongst North American Skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Department. The NHL’s Central Scouting Final List was officially released last week. MacArthur is ranked 132nd amongst North American Skaters. A list is a list, rankings are rankings, but it’s incredible to think what MacArthur has done in a short time.
“It feels really good to see my name on the list,” MacArthur said.
“It’s nice to see my efforts being recognized. I know that every team has their own list of players so I’m not going to look too far into it, but it’s definitely really nice to see.”
What would it mean to you and your family to hear your name get called on Draft Day?
“It would be really special,” he said.
“I want to be a hockey player and this would be a great step to get me to the next level,” stressed MacArthur.
“Whatever happens though, I still feel like I’ve put myself in a great spot moving forward and it’s all about building on that and having a huge year next season.“Never say never,” it’s cliché, but it certainly applies to this story of resiliency. The final chapter or scene in Bennett MacArthur’s story has yet to be written. There’s no question he has arrived, his dream is now within reach, it’s just a matter of time.