With the 2018-2019 season now in the Capitals rear view mirrors, we will begin breaking-down the last 12 months for each of the Washington Capitals prospects and provide a forecast for the upcoming season. We begin this series of reports with a review and forecast for Benton Maass, defenseman, who played last season with the University of New Hampshire. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
Maass, a 6’-2” right-handed defenseman, was drafted by the Capitals in the 6th round (#182 overall) of the 2017 NHL entry draft. The 20-year-old Elk River, Minnesota native just finished his sophomore season with the University of New Hampshire. He is currently unsigned by the Capitals.
Maass was inserted in the UNH Wildcats starting lineup straight out of high school, and has been there ever since.
As a “true freshman” last season, Maass played in all 36 games for UNH, scoring four goals, including three power play goals, and contributed 13 assists. Among all Hockey East defensemen, Maass tied for sixth in goals, third in power play goals, and eighth in assists.
Maass’ sophomore campaign did not go as well. He missed a number of games due to an injury, and his scoring output was down. His shot production did increase this season.
2018-2019 SEASON SUMMARY
Maass had a goal and five assists in 30 games played for the Wildcats. He registered 43 shots on the season for a 2.3% shooting percentage. He was a -10 on the season. Maass sustained a scary injury with just 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime in the November 23 game against Miami (here) that caused him to miss six games this season.
Maass was the starting right defenseman for half of UNH’s games this season, and on the first penalty kill unit throughout the season. Benton blocked 56 shots on the season, which lead the Wildcats.
Even though Maass was on the ice more than most of his teammates, he was rarely penalized. He was called for only three minor penalties all season, the second-fewest penalty minutes of anyone in Hockey East who played in at least 30 games.
2018-2019 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2018-2019 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
The 6’-2” sophomore has already settled into a leadership role with the Bobcats. Maass started the season on the top defensive-pair with Anthony Wyse and led the team in blocked shots. Maass had one goal on nine shots in five games in October. The one goal he scored was an overtime game-winner for New Hampshire’s only win of the season so far. The Wildcats, under new head coach Mike Souza, went 1-3-1 in the month of October. All of New Hampshire’s games have been decided by one goal.
In the 11 games Maass has played so far in his sophomore season, he has been UNH’s starting right defenseman with junior Anthony Wyse (free agent) on left defense. Coach Mike Souza has commented that Maass has logged an unusually large number of minutes. In addition to 5-on-5 play, Maass is on UNH’s first penalty kill unit and second power play unit. Although Maass has a plus/minus rating of minus–4, he is considered by many the best defender on the team. He has blocked 20 shots (fourth-highest among all Hockey East defensemen) and been penalized only once, a two-minute minor. Maass was injured with just 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime in the November 23 game against Miami (here). In the press conference after the game on Saturday night, which UNH won 4-1 over 19th-ranked Miami, Souza said: “It’s safe to say that we’re going to be without Benton for a little bit with an upper-body injury.” In a press conference on Wednesday, November 28, Souza said “We’re going to be without Benton for sure until Christmas, at the earliest. So through the next four games (i.e., home-and-home against Providence this weekend and another one against Dartmouth December 7-8) I don’t think you’ll see him.”
You may recall that Maass was injured with just 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime in the November 23 game against Miami (here). Maass would miss extended time due to the upper body injury, and did not return in the month of December. He was questionable for UNH’s final game of the month but did not dress.
After a slow 1-6-3 start to the season, the young University of New Hampshire squad (e.g., nine Freshmen, eight Sophomores) has gone on a 8-2-5 tear since late November. Sophomore defenseman Benton Maass, who missed the final two games in November and four more in December with a shoulder injury (more on injury here), returned to the UNH lineup on January 4. In his first game back, a 2-1 win over Merrimack College, Maass’ play was as solid as it had been before the injury. He initiated the game-tying play by carrying the puck to the top of the faceoff circle and snapping a wrist shot, nearly beating the Merrimack goalie on the low side. Maass registered three shots on goal, three blocked shots, and a plus/minus rating of plus-1 in the winning effort. Since his return, Maass has played in eight consecutive games, tallied one assist, had eight shots on goal and 22 blocked shots, and an even plus/minus rating. The Wildcats are 4-1-3 during that stretch. Among all UNH defensemen, Maass has the most blocked shots (2.2 per game) and fewest penalties (two minors over 19 games). The UNH penalty kill is the second stingiest in Hockey East with 86% efficiency and Maass plays right defense on UNH’s first PK unit. In short, Maass is a mainstay for UNH in the defensive zone.
Ever since the year leading up to the 2017 NHL Draft, scouting reports on defenseman Benton Maass have mentioned his potential, including his offensive upside. One of Maass’s strengths in the offensive zone is his shot from the area above the faceoff circles to the blueline. In two of the six UNH games in February, Maass earned a primary assist when his shot on goal was tipped in. Here are the video highlights of these shots; one slapshot and one wrister: (here). Maass totaled 11 shots on goal over the six-game stretch and overall, he has 34 shots on goal in 25 games. In the latter half of his sophomore season at UNH, Maass has been paired with undrafted freshman Will MacKinnon (son of Dan MacKinnon, Senior Director of Player Personnel, New Jersey Devils). Maass is also a primary defenseman on UNH’s penalty kill. Although UNH lost four times in February and surrendered five, four, six, and six goals in those losses, Maass’s defensive play remained solid. His plus/minus rating in the four losses was even, even, plus-1, and even. Overall, Maass leads UNH in blocked shots with 51 in 25 games. His 2.04 blocked shots per game is the second-highest in Hockey East. He has been penalized only three times in 25 games for a total of six minutes. This is the third-fewest penalties in Hockey East. With only three games remaining in the regular season, Benton Maass and UNH are in eighth place in Hockey East and have qualified for the Playoffs.
In early October, Ryan Kennedy, NHL prospects writer for The Hockey News, identified UNH defenseman Benton Maass as #15 on his list of “The Top 75 Players to Watch in NCAA Hockey”. He wrote: “The sophomore offensive defenseman got off to a hot start as a frosh; can the Washington Capitals pick hit another level this year? As a “true freshman” last season, Maass played in all 36 games for UNH, scoring four goals, including three power play goals, and contributed 13 assists. Among all Hockey East defensemen, Maass tied for sixth in goals, third in power play goals, and eighth in assists. On the offensive side of the ledger, it’s fair to say Maass did not “hit another level” this season. In late November, Maass injured his shoulder in an uncontrolled crash into the end boards during an overtime game against Miami University and missed the subsequent six games. Prior to the injury, Maass had tallied one goal in 11 games – an even-strength, overtime goal against Vermont. After his return to the lineup, he added five assists in 19 games. Overall scoring output in his sophomore season noticeably decreased to one goal and five assists in 30 games. On the plus side, Maass did increase his shots on goal from one per game as a freshman to 1.5 per game as a sophomore. Defensively, Maass demonstrated improvement and resilience this season. He was the starting right defenseman for half of UNH’s games and on the first penalty kill unit throughout the season. Maass blocked 56 shots for an average of 1.87 per game, the second-highest rate in Hockey East and remained constant before and after the shoulder injury. In addition, it represented an increase over the 1.22 blocks per game he logged as a freshman. Even though Maass was on the ice more than most of his teammates, he was rarely penalized. He was called for only three minor penalties all season, the second-fewest penalty minutes of anyone in Hockey East who played in at least 30 games. Maass’s plus/minus rating for the season was minus-10. That wasn’t bad considering he was on the ice for only six of UNH’s goals and he logged many more minutes on the penalty kill than most of his teammates. As a freshman, Maass had a minus-9 rating.
Maass will need to continue to work on his offensive side of the game during his upcoming Junior season. His third collegiate season will be an important one, as he closes in on life after UNH.
With departure of Chase Priskie, the Capitals organizational depth at defensemen has lessened a bit, which should be considered an opening for Maass. He will need to make some noise in his Junior season.
By Jon Sorensen