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Simon Benoit looks to build on his meteoric rise with the Leafs in 2024-25

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Bennett Jull
10 days ago
What a difference a year can make. When Simon Benoit was signed by Brad Treliving just over a year ago, the masses pointed at his horrific defensive numbers in Anaheim and questioned the signing. Only on a one-year league minimum deal, almost everyone figured Benoit would play most of his campaign with the Toronto Marlies, and sparingly if at all with the Maple Leafs. Boy were the masses wrong.
Benoit had some health issues at the beginning of this past season. Suffering from back spasms throughout training camp, Benoit started the year with the Toronto Marlies. He was up and down to start the year, playing in a handful of games with the Marlies while being called up to serve as the Maple Leafs’ seventh defenceman. He finally made his season debut in November against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Benoit wasn’t the first defenceman to be called up from the Toronto Marlies, either. He wasn’t even the second… William Lagesson and Maxime Lajoie made their Leaf debuts this year before the 25-year-old Quebec native. Once Benoit made his debut in early November, he was in and out of the lineup for the next couple of weeks before his play began to warrant a full-time roster spot. Once he claimed a regular place in the Maple Leafs lineup, he never looked back.
His offensive game has never been his calling card. In fact, since his junior years with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, he has never scored more than five goals, which likely played a large part in Benoit being undrafted. What he lacks in offensive ability he makes up for with size, physicality, heart, and effort. He has also significantly improved his defensive ability, which is now one of his strong suits.
Overall, Benoit suited up in 64 regular season games and seven playoff games with the Maple Leafs last year. He had one goal and four assists in the regular season, and zero points in the playoffs. Obviously that’s not eye-catching, but his advanced defensive and physical numbers certainly are. Benoit finished top five in the entire NHL with 3.84 hits per game, lots of which were thunderous.
His FF% (Fenwick) was 52.11, and his SF% (total shots) was 53.68 meaning that with Benoit on the ice, the Leafs had more unblocked shot attempts and total shots than the other team. Benoit’s GF% was 55.0 (total goals), his SCF% (scoring chances) was 52.16, and his HDGF% (High danger goals) was 56.10. This means that with Benoit on the ice, Toronto had more scoring chances, goals, and high-danger goals than their opponents. Benoit makes his living defending the crease and making it tough on opponents, which is backed up by these stats. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider Benoit had more than twice the amount of defensive zone starts and three times the amount of neutral zone starts versus starts in the O-zone (all numbers are from Natural Stat Trick).
Because of his stellar defensive and physical play, Brad Treliving rewarded Benoit with a three-year contract that kicks in this coming season., where he will earn $1.35M each year. It’s a nice bonus for someone who provides so little offensively, and it gives Benoit some stability for the next few years. That AAV is very manageable and team friendly, and Benoit will certainly factor into Toronto’s d-corps going forward.
Speaking of his fit, let’s look at Toronto’s blue line going into next year. Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe are the two big names signed, while Chris Tanev and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will fill obvious gaps on the back end. They also signed Jani Hakanpaa to a two-year contract, but some concerns about a lingering injury might delay his debut with the Leafs. Unless Cade Webber has an unreal training camp, I foresee his year starting with the Marlies. Timmins is certainly a trade candidate; I just don’t see a path to consistent ice time for his $1.1M AAV. The other name is Timothy Liljegren (RFA). Much has been made about his future with Toronto, and after signing a two-year contract worth $3 million annually, he’s more-or-less locked up a spot.
Morgan Rielly – Chris Tanev
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Jake McCabe
Simon Benoit – Timothy Liljegren
Conor Timmins/Cade Webber
Regardless, Benoit will start next season in the top six, and he deserves to be there. Beyond his stats, he is clearly loved by his teammates and brings intangible elements that the Maple Leafs could probably use more of. He had an outstanding 2023-2024 season, and with a full summer ahead of him, let’s hope he can take it to another level.

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