With their seventh-round pick traded in a package to the Montreal Canadiens in order to select Josh Pillar of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers in the fourth round, the Minnesota Wild’s final pick of the draft came in the sixth-round at 182nd-overall. With that pick, GM Bill Guerin and crew were able to snag Nate Benoit, a defenseman from the University of North Dakota of the NCAA.
A “tough to play against” defender, Benoit tallied 11 goals and 32 points in 33 games with Mount St. Charles Academy at the high school level. He played three games with the Tri-City Americans of the USHL, but failed to register a point. Considered a project by many scouts, there are some confident in his upside. Kirk Luedeke of the New England Hockey Journal had this to say;
“There’s an old hockey adage that says when you don’t notice a defenseman, it means he’s doing his job. When it comes to Nate Benoit, that adage is an apt description of what he brings to each situation.
The Bow, N.H., native and University of North Dakota recruit has been an outstanding two-way player for the Mount St. Charles 18 team over the past several seasons. He is ready to take the next step in juniors, where his USHL rights are owned by the Tri-City Storm. He played in three USHL games as an affiliate this past campaign, demonstrating that he could keep up with the pace and physicality of that top junior league.”
At 6’ 1” and 181 pounds, Benoit is the stereotypical stay-at-home defenseman, with a feisty, competitive edge. In his roundup of the Wild’s draft, Corey Pronman of The Athletic said that Benoit “has some interesting offensive tools, showing good vision as a puck-mover and a hard point shot. He defends fine, showing a good compete level in battles. His skating isn’t the best, with a stride that breaks down at times and lacks quickness.”
Round 6 Pick 182 Nate Benoit (D Tri-City USHL/ committed to NoDak).— Wild Prospects & Young Players (@mnwprospects) July 24, 2021
Physicality is one of his biggest strengths. He has an outstanding release and passes like a pro. His stick presence and gap control have continually improved. Committed to play at North Dakota in 22-23. #mnwild pic.twitter.com/0zk3WoewrN