#7 - Sam Bennett
Position: Centre/Left Wing
2019-20 Team: Calgary Flames (NHL)
Drafted in 2014, Round 1, Pick 4
2019 Ranking: #7
- MGMacGillivray: #6
- Flashalytics: #10
- MarkParkinson14: #8
- Madeline.Campbell: #10
- Gordie.Taylor: #7
- Readers: #7
If there’s one consistent thing about Sam Bennett, it’s that he’s extremely inconsistent. For the second year in a row, we saw Bennett turn in a mediocre at-best regular season performance but then become an absolute world-beater in the playoffs. The 2019-20 regular season was especially rough for Bennett as he flew at just under a 19 point pace over 82 games. That’s really bad, even for him who had been on a high 20’s-low 30’s pace annually over his career. However he immediately came out in the playoffs and had five goals and eight points in ten games for the club.
It just doesn’t make sense. He has 13 points in his last 15 playoff games, and 13 points in his last 63 regular season games. I know there is the idea that Bennett couldn’t keep up the level of intensity and physicality that he carries in the playoffs over an 82 game regular season, but the gap between the two just seems too massive. If all it really comes down to is that Bennett gets extra motivated for playoff games, then it really seems to be more like there’s a motivation issue for regular season games. Sure he still delivers hits during the regular season and has built his role as a solid bottom six player, but his playoff performances leave us desiring so much more in the regular season.
The question really is for the Flames is its worth having Bennett as a passenger in the regular season just so he can turn it on in the playoffs. With the rest of the Flames playing to their potential, they should be a comfortable playoff team, but last year it was a fight to get in and was possible they could’ve missed had the 82 games played out. Would we be talking the same way if Bennett’s playoff performance never occurred and he had finished with roughly 20 points? I know personally that I was ready to trade him during the break between the season and the playoffs, and wrote as such however his playoff performance kind of shut me up, but at the same time left a lot of questions going forward again.
It is worth noting too that a lot of Bennett’s playoff success came after they transitioned him back to centre with Dillon Dube and Milan Lucic. It also looks like the plan for the Flames this season seems to be having Bennett taking regular shifts at centre ice again. Of course he was drafted as a centre but never really stuck there during his early years with the Flames. Having the versatility to play centre and wing is something the Flames place a high importance on, but if they can get him back to playing centre and playing it well, it immediately raises his value to the club.
With the top six looking pretty set at this point, Bennett will be looking to form a really solid third line. Combined with returning players like Dillon Dube and Derek Ryan, plus the acquisitions of guys like Dominik Simon and Josh Leivo, the Flames bottom six feels like it has real potential to be extremely deep this year.
Moving into 2020-21 Bennett could still be considered an intriguing trade chip as he was rumored to be a part of a Taylor Hall trade before that fell through. He has one year left on his contract at 2.55M which isn’t exactly huge, but looks to be one of the more movable players if the Flames decided to add salary.
You also have to consider the upcoming expansion draft. At this point you would have to assume the Flames are protecting Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk, Dube, Backlund, and Mangiapane barring a big season from Bennett or a fall-off from any of those seven. The Flames could have intriguing options open for Seattle at other positions, but Bennett could be a solid roster player for them with potential for a break out. I don’t know if it would be worth the risk having Bennett on a division rival moving forward in case he eventually finds his game in a bigger role.
Questions continue to surround Bennett and his place within the Flames but this is nothing unusual going pretty much all the way back to when he was drafted. Can he show more in the regular season to work his way into the core, or could this be the last season of Sam Bennett in Calgary?