He's always been extremely skilled and it's awesome for him to sign that contract. - Sam Bennett
SAINT PAUL, MN -- Sam Bennett is well-acquainted with Andrew Mangiapane.
The two, who hail from the Toronto area, spent plenty of time playing together in summer hockey over the years and then went head-to-head in the Ontario Hockey League, with Bennett suiting up for the Kingston Frontenacs and Mangiapane dressing for the Barrie Colts.
Now the pair are once again members of the same organization, with Mangiapane signing an entry-level contract with the Flames on Mar. 23.
"He's an unbelievable player. A lot of skill," Bennett said. "I played against him growing up, my whole life. He's always been extremely skilled and it's awesome for him to sign that contract."
Listed at 5-foot-10 and weighing in at 177-pounds, Mangiapane is far from the biggest player on the ice but his size hasn't been a detriment to his development.
He is second in the OHL in goals with 51, sixth in league scoring with 106 points, and leads the league with eight short-handed goals.
In 195 career games with the Colts, Mangiapane has amassed a whooping 118 goals and 261 points, equating to a 1.34 points-per-game average throughout his junior career.
Never drafted in the OHL, making the Barrie roster as a walk-on tryout back in 2013, Mangiapane has shown that his stature isn't an issue.
"Look at our best player and leading point-getter," Bennett said, gesturing towards Johnny Gaudreau's locker. "He's probably close to the same size as Johnny. Everyone knows what Johnny can do out there.
"At this time, it doesn't matter how tall you are."
While Mangiapane's size mirrors that of Gaudreau, the two wingers play different styles. Gaudreau is known for his speed and finesse. Mangiapane has plenty of skill and quickness but he has no qualms about playing a physical game. He's an assertive force on the ice, bulldozing his way through opponents to get to open ice.
Many have compared Mangiapane's game to Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand, one of the NHL's grittiest top-six forwards.
"He's a well-round guy and he's not afraid to go into the corners," Bennett explained. "That's going to help him make that transition easier."
The Flames drafted Mangiapane in the sixth round (166th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.
He and the Colts will take on Mississauga Steelheads in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Game One takes place on Mar. 24 at the Barrie Molson Centre.