If you look up the adjective ‘truculent’ in the dictionary, you will see the definition “aggressively hostile”. Ben Masella takes the word ‘truculent’ to a whole new level on the ice, and he (and anyone who has coached him) wouldn’t have it any other way. He hits hard, he battles harder and he will do whatever it takes to help his team win. The thing that makes Masella special though, is his character and work ethic off the ice, leadership qualities that have resulted in him being a captain on 3 different teams and the ability to elevate the game of those around him.
The Junior de Montreal knew what they were doing when they selected Ben Masella in round 8 of the QMJHL draft, even though he made it clear to all teams that he would be attending Deerfield Academy in the US next year. Masella was a force on the blueline this year for the Lac St. Louis Lions, specializing in shutting down other team’s top players and emerging as an elite penalty killer. I asked Yanick Lemay, head scout of the Junior de Montreal, what he liked about Masella’s game; he said “Ben was a leader during the Lions’ playoff run. He is strong defensively because of his strength and physical play. He’s a safe player in his own zone, and you can always count on him for a good first pass.” Masella’s value to a team extends far beyond goals and assists, which is why the Juniors felt the investment was worth it, even though it could end up being a wasted pick.
Ben and I chatted recently about all things hockey, including Midget AAA, the QMJHL and his future.
PSB: Last year, not too many people expected you to make Midget AAA as a first year, and you did. You had a pretty solid season, but you were not drafted into the QMJHL in your first year of eligibility. For some people that can be a pretty humbling experience. How did that affect you?
BM: Well yeah obviously it was somewhat disappointing. I think a lot had to do with me not deciding my future yet. I was honest with the teams and I guess it wasn’t worth taking a chance on me. Foresure I was disappointed, but I was kind of expecting it too. If anything it just made realize how things can happen or not happen quickly.
PSB: Despite not getting drafted, you were still invited to Quebec’s U17 camp last year. Even though you did not make that team, how do you feel that experience helped you?
BM: I think that not making Team Quebec was the biggest disappointment for me in my hockey career, but like anything else it gave me a good guide of where I was on and off the ice and what I needed to work on. It also motivated me in a way.
PSB: As a returning Midget AAA player this year, did you change your game at all from your rookie season?
BM: Yeah for one I was more confident and ready and knowing what to expect out of the league, so I think it helped me have the confidence to maybe make a little more fancy but effective plays. Also I learned how to play controlled, whereas in my first year I would play without really understanding my opponents.
PSB: The day of the QMJHL draft, I congratulated you on getting drafted by the Junior de Montreal. Your exact response was “I did? Are you serious?” Why were you so surprised?
BM: I guess I was surprised because once again I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know that there were no guarantees especially since I told most teams that I decided to go to school in the states for at least a year. But fore sure I was a little surprised but at the same time relieved. Sometimes it’s good to get rewarded for your hard work and what better reward than getting drafted to your hometown team.
PSB: Being a Montreal resident, did it mean a lot to you to be drafted by your hometown team?
BM: Yeah of course, it’s always a great honor to play in front of the people you grew up with. It would obviously be a dream come true to play in front of your hometown, however in my case I need to consider all my options and what’s best for my future. I am, however, excited that the possibility does exist.
PSB: I’d like for readers to gain some insight as to how you play the game of hockey. So what part of your game do you pride yourself on?
BM: I pride myself on winning battles in the corners and making life miserable for the opposing forwards all over the ice. I play with a lot of emotion, and a lot of heart. I think I probably excel the most in shot blocking and playing physical.
PSB: And if someone were to ask me which NHL player Ben Masella most resembles, who do you think would be a good comparable?
BM: I think I could compare myself to someone like Anton Volchenkov. We have similar styles in every aspect of the game, and I tend to make similar defensive plays as him.
PSB: Over the summer, you will be training like most young hockey players. What are you hoping to improve on the most?
BM: I take off-season training very seriously, and I plan on improving overall as an athlete. I think mostly I want to add some muscle and lose fat, as well as focusing on improving my cardio which involves lots of on ice training as well as plyometrics and bike rides.
PSB: I know you intend on playing for Deerfield prep school next season. Is it possible that playing for Montreal in the QMJHL could figure into your plans after that?
BM: Yeah that’s a real possibility. My number one concern is attending a good school while still playing hockey, and Montreal has the best English schools in Quebec. So after my time at Deerfield, if Montreal offers the best education for me, then yeah it’s a possibility.
PSB: Let’s look into the distant future. It’s the year 2012 and an NHL team drafts you. If you had it your way, would it be the Montreal Canadiens, or your beloved Philadelphia Flyers?
BM: If I had it my way, I think I would want to play for whatever team offers me the best situation in terms of hockey and everything else. Honestly, Montreal is where my heart is and I know that playing for my family and friends every night is a privilege, and I think it could really inspire me to be a better hockey player. So if I HAD to choose one I’d say the Montreal Canadiens.
PSB: And finally, I coached quite a few teams that you were a part of, the most notable one being Lower Canada College’s Bantam Hockey team that went undefeated 3 years ago. You were the MVP of that team and the captain as well. What do you remember most about that season?
BM: I remember the semi-final against Kuper at the LCC arena. It was minus 20 and we were losing 3-1 with 2 minutes left. I remember you and Coach Roche telling us how we hadn’t lost up to that point and that we got way to far to lose. That seemed to inspire us and we finally tied the game up with 40 seconds left. That to me taught me a lot about hockey and just personally, how anything is possible at anytime, you just have to believe.
PSB: Thanks for your time Ben. I wish you all the best at Deerfield, although I’m secretly hoping to see you suit up for the Junior de Montreal one day!
BM: Hahaha; thanks Corey.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.