We’re back with another edition to our 2014 First Rounders series and we’re taking a look at Sam Bennett and the Calgary Flames. We took a look at the other Sam taken in the first round last week and determined there is a strong chance he won’t make it, will the second Sam taken inside the top 5 fare any better?
Prior to Draft
Ahead of the draft Bennett played in his 2nd season with the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL where he recorded 91 points in 57 games. By the midway point in the season Bennett ranked fourth in scoring with 66 points in 40 games and rode a 24-game scoring streak. He was ranked as the best North American skater in the CSS rankings at midseason and kept the top spot despite a groin injury.
However, an injury derailed his season a bit and he wasn’t able to take part in the Top Prospects game or suit up for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
He laced up for the OHL all stars side during the Jr. Super Series where he recorded 1 point in 1 game and helped Canada win gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament where he served as the alternate captain recording 4 points in 5 games.
No one really knew where he would fall in this draft with the comparisons to the other Sam available and the fact both players played a different brand of hockey. They both had high praise for leadership, but Sam Bennett seemed to be the more offensive guy who a team could count on to score.
Despite the fact Sam Bennett couldn’t perform a pull-up at the NHL combine, the Calgary Flames decided to take the centre with their fourth overall pick. I mean what do pull-ups have to do with hockey, right?
Given the fact the Flames rushed their first round, 6th overall pick from 2013 Sean Monahan right into the NHL, one would think the door is open for Bennett to make the jump as well.
There is no one expecting the Flames to come within sniffing distance of the NHL post season this year. It’s going to be a rough year for them just like it was for the Buffalo Sabres last season. While it might seem ideal to throw all the rookies into the spotlight and get them much needed NHL experience, that isn’t always the best option.
If the Flames are going to be a poor team why waste a year off his Entry Level contract in a lost season?
The Flames already have a solid mix of top 3 centres with Monahan, Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund so there is no need to rush Bennett into the centre role. They added Mason Raymond and Jiri Hudler to the mix this season and with Boston College standout Johnny Gaudreau joining the roster, there is more than enough talent on the roster right now.
There is little doubt that skill wise Sam Bennett could crack the Calgary Flames roster tomorrow, but physically the team has some doubts.
Will he play his rookie season in 2014-2015
Considering the Flames GM came right out and said he would “shocked” to see Sam Bennett playing with the club this season, the answer has to be no. If Bennett heads back to the OHL his Frontenacs will be amongst one of the top teams in the league looking to avenge for an early post season exit.
He’ll get to lace up for team Canada at the U18 and will be a leader on the team hoping to land Canada a gold medal. He’ll be able to dominate at the OHL level once again and hopefully lead his team deeper than last season. The Flames need Bennett to get a little bigger physically, as they have enough small forwards.
If he can bulk up, have a great season in the OHL and play at the World Juniors, that has to be a better year for him than a losing year in Calgary. They may give him a few exhibition games, but chances are Sam Bennett ends up back in Kingston for next season.