BATHURST, NB — With the New Year comes a new beginning of sorts for a young hockey player from Bay Roberts.
The Drummondville Voltigeurs made Zachary Bennett a late-round draft pick last summer, and the 17-year-old defenceman impressed enough in training camp to earn a roster spot with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise.
But things didn't quite pan out in Drummondville. Through 39 games, Bennett dressed for seven games, notching one assist. Not in a position to get regular playing time, the Voltigeurs elected to trade Bennett over the Christmas break to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
The trade, completed Jan. 4, resulted in a change of time zones for Bennett, who now finds himself living in New Brunswick after two-and-a-half seasons playing hockey in Quebec — he played for two seasons at a prep school in Sherbrooke.
"I have new billets and I got on the ice for the first time today actually," he told The Compass over the phone Monday night from Bathurst. Bennett skated for an hour with the team's defensive coach before skating for another hour on his own.
Asked about his reaction to the trade, Bennett said the possibility of getting moved had crossed his mind.
"I didn't know if it was actually going to happen," he said. "I had it in the back of my mind, but it did catch me off guard a little bit. But definitely, I was happy to hear (about the trade)."
Bennett added there were some mixed emotions about leaving his old teammates behind, including cousin Dawson Mercer, a forward with the Voltigeurs. The two have played together most of their life, including last season at Bishops College in Sherbrooke.
"I made a lot of good friends in Drummondville, and I'm going to miss Dawson."
That said, he views the chance to lace up his skates for a new team as a great opportunity.
"When I was told by the coaches in the meeting (about the trade), it caught me off guard, but I was excited for the new opportunity to be able to play for a very good team and a very good organization. I think it's going to benefit me in the future."
The coaching staff has thus far told Bennett to work hard and play his way onto the team. A four-game road trip begins Thursday night in Chicoutimi, Quebec.
"I've just got to stick it out, work my hardest and try and be as good as I possibly can and try and improve everyday."
Acadie-Bathurst is currently third in the Maritimes Division of the Q-league. They're fourth in the league in goals scored and recently made a big splash defensively by trading for goalie Evan Fitzpatrick, a St. John's native the St. Louis Blues selected in the second round of the 2017 NHL entry draft.
Including Bennett, there are now five native Newfoundlanders playing for the Titan.
"It's definitely real nice and comforting to know some guys from home."
Liam Leonard, an old buddy of Bennett's from Clarenville who recently joined the team, agreed to give up the number-eight jersey for his friend.
"He gave up the number for me to be able to have it, because it has been my childhood number. I've had it my entire life since I started playing hockey," Bennett said. "Liam was a really good friend to do that for me."
Bennett is now in his Grade 12 year of school. This season he's been engaged in online studies, but with the trade he hopes to transfer to the local high school.