There are a lot of reasons to get excited about Sam Bennett. He was one of the top-ranked - and often the top-ranked - guy in his draft year. Even after scoring 91 points in 57 games, and another nine points in seven playoff games, he couldn't do a pull up, then he could do a pull up, then we found out he required shoulder surgery and had put up those point totals while injured (and felt shame for all those stupid pull up jokes). And that was after he was a force in the NHL pre-season, too.
When he got back, he lit the OHL on fire, scoring 24 points over 11 games and being named the player for the month of March, and that's after nearly half a year of not playing. It took him all of 33 seconds to score his first NHL point, and it was all him. Hard work and straight up shiftiness from stealing the puck to working with it in close around the net saw him with an opening shift to remember.
Bennett is probably in the NHL next year. And he's in it right now. And he may be in the lineup tomorrow. And tomorrow is a playoff game.
Injuries create opportunity, and while Lance Bouma's injury is an unfortunate blow, it opens up a spot. Bennett really is, very likely, the best option to fill in; hell, he could very well end up being more effective than Bouma, although that's putting the cart before the horse a bit.
Here's what's going on right now: Bennett is taking regular line rushes in practice. Okay, fine, whatever, you want to do that with everyone available to you.
He's also currently on the second powerplay unit.
Beyond Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, and Sean Monahan, there aren't many obvious forward options for the powerplay. If Bennett is in the lineup, though, he's a very obvious choice. After one game, he obviously isn't one of the Flames' top scorers, but he has the potential to be exactly that right now. Putting him in a situation in which he's expected to score is, well, really good. For both him and the Flames.
The other forwards on that second unit powerplay are currently Backlund and Joe Colborne. The trio is expected to form a line together as well, but that remains to be seen. Of course, everything remains to be seen: it's the playoffs, and you don't give that information away.
Sam Bennett time, though? Yeah, that's looking pretty likely. Especially with this on the table:
#Flames Brad Treliving said Sam Bennett is available for Bob Hartley to use...burning a year of his ELC won't keep him out of the line-up.— Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills) April 13, 2015
Although I'd still strongly advise against that.
Other notes from today's practice:
- Monahan left early, but Hartley said it was "part of the plan". Looks like he's gonna be playing some big minutes really soon.
- Paul Byron joined the main group, first in a no-contact jersey, then in a red one, joining Bennett and Backlund on a line. Byron coming back would be absolutely huge for the Flames. He's one of the team's better possession players, and him with Bennett and Backlund could be a really, really good line (better than with Colborne there). They could even form the Flames' second line next season. The B line. Anyway, a Byron return would be a big boost.
- Joni Ortio practiced on his own, while Karri Ramo joined Jonas Hiller in the main group. Looks like Ramo may be close to a return.
- Rafa Diaz and Bouma were the only guys not out there, so their status is still uncertain and less likely to play. That's bad news on defence. Corey Potter and Tyler Wotherspoon both took reps with David Schlemko, but it remains to be seen who's actually dressed; regardless, based on recent games with Potter in as the number six guy, whoever it is probably won't get many minutes.
- Mason Raymond continues to appear to be the odd man out. Not that it's not earned, but it's kind of funny, given he's one of the Flames with more playoff experience.