By Nicholas Carafa
Photo by Terry Wilson / CHL Images
To say Sam Bennett’s NHL career started with a hiccup would be an understatement.
Already surrounded by questions stemming from a zero-pull-up performance at the NHL Combine, a pre-season shoulder injury meant his NHL debut would be put on hold.
Oh, but was it ever worth the wait.
He tallied an assist 33 seconds into his first NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets on April 11 – the Calgary Flames’ 2014-15 regular-season finale – then picked up another helper in his first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Vancouver. He followed that up with his first NHL goal – the Game 3 winner – and finished with three goals in the postseason.
“There were reports that the kid was not a good worker and couldn’t do pull-ups or anything,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley told Sportsnet.
“You know, when your shoulder is broken in pieces, but you [still] are a competitor and you want to be there, I think it speaks volumes about his character.”
“At training camp also, where apparently his shoulder was fine. Well, now we know he wanted to make our team so badly, but when we got it checked by our doctors, there was no way he could keep going without surgery. That’s the kind of player we need in this organization. This kid is full of dynamite.”
Bennett tallied 33 goals and 69 points in 37 games in his final season with the Toronto Marlboros (2011-12) and 40 points in 60 contests in his rookie campaign with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. Since then, he has averaged a point-per game in every season.
Now in his rookie year with the Flames, Bennett has scored four goals and 11 points while skating alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik on the second line.
“I’m feeling confident,” the Holland Landing, Ont., native told reporters after the Flames’ 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals last Friday.
“It’s just not being afraid to make a play with the puck, not being afraid to lose it and just having the trust and confidence in myself to be able to make the play.”
When a winger possesses the dynamic speed and skill that Bennett does, newfound confidence translates to comfort at the high-octane pace of play in the NHL.
His impressive release that caught the attention of scouts growing up – and now the eyes of Flames management and fans – has helped Bennett prove that he not only has the potential to claim the Calder Trophy at season’s end, but also will become an integral piece of Calgary’s three-headed monster of young stars that also features Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
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