Before the season even started, there was a lot of intrigue surrounding Sam Bennett. Taken fourth overall in the draft, but ranked as the top prospect by some outlets, it wasn't certain just what was going to be done with him. Would he make the team out of camp, like Sean Monahan? Or would his youth and lesser size send him back to junior?
The answer turned out to be neither. He was ranked so highly, yet he fell to fourth... and had a busted shoulder along the way; played through it during the preceding season's OHL playoffs. Pull up jokes suddenly stopped being funny, and into surgery Bennett went, relegated to a state of hockey limbo.
When he returned at the end of February, he was sent back to Kingston. It was the only move that made sense; to throw him in the middle of an NHL schedule on a team fighting for a playoff spot would have been irresponsible, both to the player coming off of months of inactivity, and in regards to his contractual status.
In response, Bennett destroyed the OHL until his Frontenacs were eventually swept from the playoffs, nothing he could do to prolong their run.
He made his NHL debut in a meaningless game against the Winnipeg Jets, scoring his first point just 33 seconds in. He made the roster for the playoffs, and found himself playing alongside Mikael Backlund for most of the 11 games. A year of his entry level deal was burned, but he helped the Flames make it to the second round and scored three goals and an assist all the while, so who's counting?
We only saw Bennett for 12 games, but it was enough to leave a lasting impression. Here are our grades:
We barely even got to meet Sam Bennett, but what we did see was incredible. From his first NHL shift to the playoffs, Bennett was an offensive force and constant threat. He created the Flames’ first playoff game-winning goal with just 90 seconds left in their first game, and their only road win. He hits, he crashes the net, he’s very, very young and is probably going to be terrifying to the opposition for years to come.
He kind of already is now. And he was only 18 last season.
Mike FAIL (B+):
Sam Bennett was 18 years old. Now he is 19 year old Sam Bennett. Lil’ Sammy had a very small sample size (one regular season game and 11 post-season games) while playing great at times and then disappearing. But he was only 18 and still a kid.
I look forward to an aging Jim Hughson reminding us every game he calls that Sam Bennett plays in just how old 19 year old Sam Bennett is.
Sam Bennett was an 18 year old with zero professional experience coming off of shoulder surgery who played well enough to convince a professional hockey team to keep him around and burn a year of his contract. Is that argumentum ad auctoritatem? Yes. Is it true? Yes. He only played one regular season game and in his one game he finished second in scoring per minute, so that’s pretty good.
Obviously that wasn’t sustainable, but he still performed well in the playoffs and continued scoring at a decent clip. He was very good for what he was and hopefully sticks with the team next year. He’s part of a very bright future in Calgary.
Small sample size to judge, but with what he’s done in the preseason and the playoffs, he has impressed. The kid who couldn’t do a pull up ended up being a physical force (tying for 10th among rookies in hits in the postseason with 15) and he registered three playoff goals - very impressive for a kid who had only played a single NHL game prior to playoffs. What he’s shown this season has given fans a peek into what looks like a very bright future.
We only saw a little bit of him, but he was impressive in all 11 games played. He looked comfortable in all situations, which is good for an 18 year old (in case Jim Hughson didn’t tell you enough times, Sam Bennett was, in fact, 18 years old last season) who missed the entire season. Definitely the most exciting player on the Flames roster moving forward.
It says a lot for what Bennett did in round one that I’ve even given him a grade. If he can recreate what he did in his first five games over the course of a season, then we have a superstar on our hands.
Sam Bennett is one of the major reasons the Calgary Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks in their first round playoff series. In that series Bennett contributed to the most scoring chances of any Flame, tying him with Daniel Sedin . It’s not much of a sample, but stepping into NHL playoff hockey at 18 years old and putting on the performance he did is definitely worth an A.
Bennett gets an A- average from us over his small sample size. It's not a lot to go off of, but what we saw... That was impressive.
We're all expecting more from him, and we definitely can't wait to see it. Bennett is one of the brightest spots in the Flames' future, and his career is just getting started. Let's see how high he can rise.