By Total Sports Quinte Staff
Photo: Amy Deroche OJHL Images
The Secret behind this surprise early pick. Jeremy Benoit and Chris Longo.
The fact that Ben Roger, a Former Quinte Red Devil and Wellington Duke was drafted to the NHL comes as no surprise. The Brighton native and current London Knight was expected to go maybe late third round, but most likely in round 4 or five. Roger was chosen 49th overall by the Senators, some 30 plus picks ahead of expectation.
First and foremost you have to congratulate the work that Ben has put in to put himself in this situation. He has worked incredibly hard despite all of the trials and tribulations that has beleaguered many of these young players through the pandemic, especially those in Ontario.
There are things behind the scenes that definitely contributed to this early selection. The uncertainty of this years draft because of the lack of overall views left the rankings wide open to conjecture and guessing. Players were slotted in based on views from two seasons ago in some cases which has led to more U.S. and Euro based players getting the call this year. Many thought that Ontario players would be left on the outside looking in, but Roger had an advantage. Jeremy Benoit and Chris’s Longo.
Jeremy Benoit is the strength and conditioning coach of the AHL Belleville Senators and works very closely with the Ottawa scouting team. Jeremy has been workin with Roger since his days with the Wellington Dukes, which Benoit assists with part time providing guidance and training, especially in the off season.
Ben Roger is a skilled player but has put on over 30 pounds in the last 18 months. Benoit has been a big part of that growth and has had an inside view of Roger’s development. This type of insight is key to selecting a player like this. Benoit has quickly become one of the up and coming stars in the hockey development world.
During the summer workouts Benoit works closely with Skating and skill instructor Chris Longo who is also the Assistant coach with the Kingston Frontenacs. The two have created a very strong bond and working relationship that creates a unique blend of science and expertise to increase the levels of success of their young protege.
Longo identifies weaknesses in the players stride or technique then discusses with Benoit the issues the player may be working on in the gym. By identifying these weaknesses, they work collaboratively to find the best path forward to improve on these shortcomings through a concerted effort on and off ice. Roger has definitely benefited from this interaction through his growth spurt.
Derek Smith, Head coach of the Wellington Dukes coached Roger and has been a part of his successful development. “Ben has a great mind for the game as he processes and sorts at a high level, but the commitment he has put into his strength and conditioning both in the gym and on the ice has paid huge dividends on his development over the past couple of years. He is committed to pushing the limits everyday.” said Smith.
In June a group of OHL players who were disgruntled with the OHL shutdown and the lack of opportunity afforded to them through the pandemic, organized a showcase of draft eligible players in Erie Pa. The PBHH showcase was quickly organized and gave these players a small window to show where they are in their development.
From all accounts, Ben Roger took full advantage of this opportunity and showed very well at this event. Any time a player puts on thirty pounds in a year you are concerned that they may lose some of that agility and speed that they had.” Said one scout who wished to remain anonymous, “ Roger showed that he had taken a step forward and had really put some work in through the pandemic.”
Although the showcase did not provide a full view like a full season would provide, the SENS were not averse to the inherent risk. There is some risk in jumping up on Roger, which was noted by some pundits surprised by the early pick, but the Senators had a direct line of sight through Benoit to know that Roger ticks off the boxes of work ethic, athleticism and character.
Congratulations to the Roger family and a tip of the hat to Jeremy Benoit and Chris Longo.
Look for more on this story in the Summer edition of Total Sports Quinte.