Sam Bennett will not be playing professional hockey just yet. Finally recovered from October shoulder surgery - surgery that he probably should have had months earlier, as he was actually playing with a shoulder injury for quite some time in his draft year - the Flames' top prospect has been sent back to junior.
Now recovered, not to mention having had the chance to practice a fair amount with his future NHL team, Bennett joins his Kingston Frontenacs. Kingston is currently in seventh place in the OHL's eastern conference with 50 points in 53 games, and in a battle to make the playoffs. They're already likely to make it, but the addition of Bennett to their lineup for their final games should give them an incredible boost.
Sending Bennett back to junior was absolutely the right move: and it's been the right move all along, starting from way back in the off-season. This is only compounded now by the fact that Bennett will be getting his legs back under him against guys his own age, rather than fully grown men. And while Bennett being injured and losing so much playing time was unfortunate, things haven't been all bad:
Interesting note from #Flames GM Brad Treliving — Sam Bennett has gained about 10 lb. of muscle while working out in Calgary.— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) February 21, 2015
Also, there's the fact that this did stop the Flames from potentially unnecessarily burning a year of his entry level contract had Bennett gotten off to an unsustainable start, much like Sean Monahan did in his rookie season. There's probably an alternate universe out there in which this all plays out very, very differently, but things have turned out pretty okay in our world.
Of course, general manager Brad Treliving has been very level headed about all of this.
Treliving says sending Bennett to Kingston was never really in doubt. It was the most sensible move and they stuck to their guns. #Flames— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) February 21, 2015
And while in all likelihood, Bennett would have preferred to be playing in the NHL right now, he's been sensible about this ordeal, as well.
Bennett on decision to send him back to Kingston: "I think ultimately this is the best decision for myself."— Aaron Vickers (@AAVickers) February 21, 2015
Kingston is expecting Bennett to play his first game on Wednesday, Feb. 25. That would give him 13 regular season games with his junior team, plus however many playoff games they end up playing.
Depending on how long the Frontenacs last in the playoffs, Bennett could still be making his professional hockey debut this season. If the Frontenacs are eliminated while the Calgary or Adirondack Flames are still playing, Bennett would definitely join one of those teams. And who's to say what happens if either one ends up in the playoffs?
Next season, we'll all probably be seeing a lot of Sam Bennett. Until then, the patience displayed by Flames management is an extremely positive sign, both for his future, and the future of the team as a whole.