If that's what they're thinking right now, I'm going to do whatever I can in training camp an in the exhibition games to change their mind and prove to them I am ready to play. - Sam Bennett
CALGARY, AB -- Sam Bennett hadn’t heard that general manager Brad Treliving would be “shocked” if the latest first round pick of the Calgary Flames could bull his way onto the roster out of training camp.
He doesn’t care, either.
“I'm here to change their mind,” Bennett said of Treliving’s comment to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector just over a week ago. “If that's what they're thinking right now, I'm going to do whatever I can in training camp an in the exhibition games to change their mind and prove to them I am ready to play.”
Bennett, Calgary’s top pick (No. 4) at the 2014 NHL Draft, is simply heeding the advice received from Treliving.
“He's saying 'Don't worry about what everyone's saying and don't worry about all the pressure,” he said. “Really, you just got to go out there and play your game. My game is what got me this far and I think if I want to be successful at training camp and moving forward, I just got to keep playing my game.”
Expectations remain high for the highest draft pick in the organization's history.
Bennett is following an impressive, 22-goal rookie campaign from Sean Monahan, who cracked the Flames roster less than three months after Calgary tagged him as their top pick, sixth overall, in 2013, too.
But Bennett isn’t worried about that either.
“I think really it comes down to just worrying about myself,” he said. “I'm not going to set expectations based on what other players did last year. I think all my expectations are based on myself. I know what my goal is and I know what I want to achieve, and I think that's really what I'm going to be focused on.”
That focus helped lead the 6-foot-1, 178-pound centre to Vail, CO., where he participated in a high altitude conditioning camp of his own alongside established NHLers like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane courtesy an invite from strength and conditioning coach Andy O’Brien.
“It was a really cool experience just to watch how they perform on and off the ice,” Bennett said.
“The main thing I got out of that was watching how they perform and what they do when no one else is around, just players. They're the best players in the world and they still train like they need to prove something. It's just amazing how hard they work and how much time and effort they put in to continuing to be the best.”
Some solo time with Crosby helped reaffirm Bennett’s belief that he can crack Calgary’s roster sooner rather than later.
“I was talking to Crosby one-on-one and he told me the pace of that practice and the scrimmage we played in was even faster than what he's used to, and he said their training camp won't be as fast as it was out there,” he said.
“Definitely, I think that's a huge advantage for me.”
Whether Bennett remains with the Flames or is returned to the Kingston Frontenacs for another season of OHL hockey has yet to be determined, though.
In Bennett’s opinion, what has been determined is that Calgary will do what is in the best interests of the 18-year-old long-term.
“Ultimately, I think the Flames organization knows what's best for me, and if that's the route they think is best for my career,” he said. “I respect that and I would go back to Kingston and play my hardest and prove that I'll be ready next year.”