Bakersfield All-Star forward, future Jr. King Benoit commits to NCAA Division I Omaha
All it took was one year of junior hockey for 2007-born Robin Benoit to prove he could play with anyone, at any age.
That one year of junior hockey took place in Bakersfield, as Benoit signed on with the 2022-23 USPHL Premier expansion team, the Bakersfield Roughnecks. The youngest player in the USPHL Premier last year led his team with 27 goals and 25 assists for 52 points in 43 games, earning Pacific Division All-Star honors.
Now, he’s been granted an even bigger honor – an NCAA Division I commitment.
Benoit committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, currently for the 2026-27 season.
“(I liked) all the faculties and the campus and where I’m going to live, and what I’m going to do,” said Benoit, from his home in St-Felicien, Que. “It makes me very comfortable and I want to be comfortable where I’m going to play.”
That certainly lines up with what brought him to the San Joaquin Valley city of Bakersfield last year.
“The Roughnecks were very nice when they were talking to me at the beginning of the year. I learned I could play golf and hockey around the same time. I also wanted to learn English and study in English, and that’s also what they could bring to me,” said Benoit, who was in some cases a full five years younger than many of his teammates. “I was not nervous, I just wanted to play. All my teammates said, ‘Don’t worry about your age, we’re here for you, just put the puck in the net and have fun.’”
The Mavericks saw that he could obviously put the puck in the net, with his USPHL Premier output, something the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers also saw. He was drafted in the 2023 USHL Draft by the Gamblers (10th round, 144th overall), which went hand-in-hand with draft selections of Benoit by the NCDC’s Provo Predators and the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix this past spring.
“Right before the USHL draft, Omaha called me and told me they were interested, so that was the first time we’d talked. They knew I’d be moving on to the USHL,” he said. “I talked to (Omaha associate head coach Dave Noel-Bernier). He is from Quebec and speaks French, so we spoke about my season and what the university can bring to me, and what I’m going to do after hockey. They just wanted to help me.”
Even at this young age, Benoit hopes that “after hockey” is a long way off. He has pro aspirations for his time after UNO.
The Mavericks and the Gamblers are getting to know what the Roughnecks already know.
“I’m an offensive guy, but I also play a little bit of defense, a complete player,” Benoit said. “I can score, block shots, skate and help my teammates to be better.”
Neither UNO nor Green Bay will see Benoit much this year, though he may play some games with Green Bay as an affiliate player having been drafted this year. Instead, he’s returning to California to play with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ 16U AAA squad. For now, at least, he can’t stay away from California hockey.
“It’s amazing weather and just being able to do everything all year there. I don’t want to play just hockey all season, I want to play golf, be at the beach,” Benoit said. “I want to have fun with my teammates, but not in the snow.”
— Joshua Boyd/USPHLPremier.com
(August 8, 2023)