The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the signing of forward Bennett MacArthur to a three-year entry-level contract. The ELC will start with the 2022-23 season. A left winger, Bennett is listed at 6’1” and 197 pounds and hails from Summerside in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Bennet turned 21 at the end of January.
In his draft year of 2018-19, MacArthur was playing for the Kensington Wild U18 AAA in the NBPEIMMHL. A real mouthful, eh? He played seven games for the Summerside Western Capitals in the MJAHL, a step up from his PEI league. He followed that up in 2019-20 with 30 games in the MJAHL where he recorded 21 goals and 41 points. His performance in the MJAHL was enough to catch the attention of Acadie-Bathurst and they brought him up to the QMJHL where he recorded eight goals and 12 points in 33 games.
During the pandemic shortened 2020-21 season, MacArthur took another step forward recording 28 goals and 40 points in 33 games. He added another six goals and 11 points in nine playoff games for the Titan. In 26 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the QMJHL this season, MacArthur has accumulated 25 goals and 43 points. In 92 games in the QMJHL, he has recorded 61 goals and 95 points for just over a point per game.
MacArthur looks to be a late bloomer that has earned his way to a professional shot with the Lightning. Being a late bloomer is certainly better than being a never bloomer. He’s had to work his way up from each level with high end offensive performances. It also hasn’t hurt that he’s got a first and second round pick on the team in Hendrix Lapierre and Riley Kidney respectively.
Acadie-Bathurst is currently sixth in the QMJHL league table and comfortably in a playoff position. Normally with CHL prospects, we’re thinking about how deep their team might go into the playoffs for if we might see the prospect joining the Syracuse Crunch or Orlando Solar Bears at the end of the season. However, with how this season’s schedule has worked out, Acadie-Bathurst will play their final regular season game the day after the Syracuse Crunch’s regular season finale. The team has already indicated that MacArthur will remain with the Titan through the end of the season which means unless the Syracuse Crunch make a deep playoff run, we won’t be seeing him make his professional debut this season.
With the signing of MacArthur, the Lightning have continued a trend of seeking to find talent through means other than the NHL Entry Draft. With how many draft picks and prospects the Lightning have traded over the past few seasons, they haven’t had as many prospects coming into the pipeline. MacArthur joins Jimmy Huntington, Odeen Tufto, and Alex Barre-Boulet as other undrafted free agents that the Lightning have signed to bolster the prospect pipeline.
As far as potential for MacArthur at the NHL... who knows? At 6’1” and 197 pounds, he has NHL average size. He’s got the offensive production in the QMJHL to suggest there’s at least some potential though, but that has to be taken with a grain of salt since most of it occurred during his 19 and 20 year old seasons in the QMJHL where overagers are expected to produce even if they don’t have much of an NHL future.
The Lightning’s scouting staff though clearly sees something. You don’t give a player an entry-level contract unless your scouts see a path to the NHL for the player. There’s always the potential, just like any prospect, for him to fall short of that goal. He could just be a good middle-six forward in the AHL. He could blossom and show he can take on the professional game and grow into a third or fourth line role in the NHL. There’s some potential there for an NHLer. We’ll get a better idea of how much potential is there next season as he steps up into the professional ranks.