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Kingston's Bennett turns focus to NHL Draft

Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 12:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer / 2014 NHL Draft blog

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2014 NHL Draft blog
Kingston's Bennett turns focus to NHL Draft

Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett watched with great interest the Florida Panthers win the NHL Draft Lottery Tuesday evening in Toronto.

Bennett is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft.

"It was really exciting," Bennett told NHL.com. "It's really interesting but there still are a lot of questions, so whatever happens in June will happen, but I'm really excited."

Bennett acknowledged that as the teams were revealed one by one by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, he couldn't help but envision where he might land on June 27 when the first round of the draft is held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

"It's all up in the air, no one knows who will go where and it's hard to figure out, but I'll admit I was trying to guess and see where I might go," Bennett said.

The only sure thing for Bennett is the fact he will likely be selected among the top five picks, which are currently held by the Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders, respectively. The Islanders have until June 1 to decide whether they will give their first-round pick to Buffalo this year or next year as part of the Thomas Vanek trade.

Bennett, who finished ninth in the Ontario Hockey League with 91 points (36 goals, 55 assists), was asked to make his pitch to the general manager of the team holding the No. 1 choice on June 27.

"Well, I don't want to put any other player down, but I do feel my hockey sense and my compete level rivals any other in this draft class," Bennett said. "The coaching staff has been very helpful all year, providing advice and telling me not to think about [the draft] too much. So whenever I was playing, I just wanted to put it out of my head and focus on my game."

He certainly had that focus this season as he posted career highs across the board in just his second OHL season.

"It was all just the confidence factor," Bennett said. "Entering my first year, I didn't really know what to expect and I didn't set too high a goal for myself. I definitely was expecting more out of myself this season, and winning a gold medal at the [2013] World Under-18 Championship [for Canada] gave me that much more confidence entering the season."

Any team that is considering passing on Bennett in the first round should take a long hard look at what the 6-foot, 178-pound left-handed shot was able to accomplish in just his second season.

He scored 18 more goals, 33 more assists, 51 more points and went from a minus-2 to a plus-34 rating in three fewer regular-season games this season. He has also proved his ability to play physical, totaling 118 penalty minutes.

"Playing confident this year was the biggest reason I was able to do what I did," Bennett said.

Bennett, who had five goals and nine points in a seven-game series loss to the Peterborough Petes in the OHL quarterfinal round, is now prepping for the NHL Draft Combine to be held May 26-31 in Toronto.

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