Benton Maass' coaches and teammates weren’t sure what they were getting when he arrived at the University of New Hampshire in 2017. It didn’t take long before they found out. At one of the Wildcats’ first practices last year, the freshman Maass found himself battling with one of the team’s bigger and stronger senior forwards. “Benton knocked him right down,” recalled UNH coach Mike Souza. During the next drill, the forward came back and tried to run him, “But Benton stood right in there,” Souza said. “It was very telling to me that he’s a pretty tough kid. When he’s challenged, he always responds.”
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Maass may not be the most physically imposing defenseman – adding muscle remains a priority – but the native of Elk River, Minn., can hold his own as a reliable, two-way defenseman with offensive upside. Maass’ poise and maturity made him attractive to the Capitals, who selected him in the sixth round (182nd overall) in the 2017 draft. “He carries himself well on the ice,” said Washington assistant GM Ross Mahoney. “He’s very consistent from shift to shift. He has good composure with the puck and good leadership qualities.”
Playing for NHL alum Gordie Roberts at Elk River High School, Maass was captain during his junior and senior seasons. He also impressed in a brief stint with NAHL Fairbanks. At UNH, Maass has emerged as a special-teams fixture while earning the trust of his coaches to play in all situations. “Getting to play a decent amount allowed me to get my legs stronger and a lot more agile,” he said. “Skating is the biggest thing I’ve been working on. It’s such a big component to getting to pro hockey.”
It’s still too early to project a potential NHL debut for Maass, but Souza said he could be “a pleasant surprise” in Washington. “He embodies everything that every program is looking for in a player,” Souza said. “The one thing he has that could get him to the NHL, and in my estimation will get him there, is that he’s consistent. He learns quickly. We’re all looking for reliable people and players, and he checks a lot of those boxes.”
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.