Rylan Benner is shockingly flying under the radar. The 16-year-old backstop from Riverview, New Brunswick is having a tremendous campaign for the Mount Academy U-17 AAA Saints. His exploits between the pipes are not getting the recognition or attention they fully deserve. Goaltenders come in all shapes and sizes, however, ask anyone and they will say size definitely matters these days when it comes to playing in the blue paint.
Sadly, the hockey world has a way of casting off or labeling young players especially goaltenders far too early in their developmental process. At the end of the day there’s not a lot of patience and too much pressure when it comes to young goaltenders.
At 6’1, 190 pounds size and strength doesn’t seem to be an issue for Benner, but the question remains, why aren’t more people talking about his game and potential?
Perhaps, Rylan Benner is the best kept secret when it comes to the 2022 QMJHL draft. The scouting world can be very clandestine at times when it comes to solid goaltending prospects, but why is the hockey world so quick to label young goaltenders so early in the process?
Obviously, it’s a no brainer that every organization across the hockey world draft and target netminders every year. Depth and talent between the pipes are critical for current and future success. Goaltending is the lifeblood of any organization and the cornerstone of championship aspirations.
Quality goaltending is hard to come by, which makes prospects like Rylan Benner so important to the future of any organization.
When push comes to shove are junior hockey organizations doing the right thing when it comes to growing and developing the position?
Are they patient enough with young goaltenders?
Do they give them enough time? Do they rush them?
Do they play them enough early on in their careers?
Do they put too much pressure on their young goaltenders to win?
When is the right time to throw them into the fire and let them play?
The questions are endless with regards to the highly competitive and fierce world of goaltending. Nevertheless, when it comes to Rylan Benner, you can ask all the questions you want, his play, composure and natural feel for the position answer all the questions you dare ask.
In 11 games this season Benner is 10-1 with a 1.21 GAA and .961 save percentage. To fully evaluate and project any young prospect you have to go beyond the stat sheet, beyond the numbers and look at the intangibles the player possesses.
Benner and his family realized the writing was on the wall when it came to cracking the Moncton Flyers organization given the return of Samuel LeBlanc and Xavier Farrah. Like so many other young players Benner made the decision to move away from home to further his journey in the game. Moving away from friends and family at 15 years old can be incredibly challenging. Even though the distance from New Brunswick to PEI might not seem all that far away, but leaving home is never easy.
Benner has handled the transition exceptionally well both academically and athletically which speaks volumes about his character and resiliency.
Benner has room to grow both figurately and literally when it comes to the game of hockey and position. Like so many young netminders Benner has the tendency to play a little deep in his net at times will and will need to challenge and fight for his space to ensure he excels at the next level. He’s incredibly comfortable playing the puck which is rare amongst goalies at his age. Benner’s overall technique is incredibly sound. He’s square to the shooter and very composed and relaxed in the blue paint. His lateral movement agility, quickness and athleticism jump off the page.
He’s not a flashy netminder by any means which is a good thing. Some might mistake his calmness as not being intense or engaged, but that’s certainly not the case. Rylan Benner is a battler which is one of his strongest attributes. When things get a little squirrelly and the action intensifies around the net, Benner remains cool and composed, but that doesn’t mean he won’t sell out for pucks and do just about anything in his power to keep the puck from going in the net. You can tell this young kid hates to get scored on and feels like he should be able to stop any shot no matter what.
We all know it takes a special breed and character to be a goaltender and that being the last line of defense can take its toll. Benner’s fierce competitive spirit is evident every time he gets the nod.
Rylan Benner has all the tools, foundational technique, and mindset it takes to be an outstanding netminder at the next level. It might take some time and experience, but all signs point to him having a significant impact at the junior level.
You can use all the labels you want; you can be over critical and overanalyze every minuscule detail the player possesses, or you can flat out project. Let’s hope the hockey world is starting to come around to the fact that young netminders need time, experience, opportunity, and a positive environment in which to grow and reach their maximum potential. You can’t rush the process when it comes to young netminders. You can’t force it.
Every situation is different, every scenario unique. Every player and goaltender have their own unique path in the game. For now, we all wait to see how things will play out.
Rylan Benner might be flying under the radar, but there’s no question his play and skill set will be noticed soon enough.
Riverview’s Rylan Benner is a player to watch.