It’s funny, before the draft I went up to visit Calgary and when I got home I went to my parents’ house – Mom, Dad, I want to be a Calgary Flame and I want to play in Calgary. To have that come true now ... it's unbelievable. - Sam Bennett
CALGARY, AB -- Sam Bennett didn’t have a say in which team was going to select him in the 2014 NHL Draft, but he had hoped it would be the Calgary Flames.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving stepped to the microphone and announced Bennett as Calgary’s top pick in the draft, much to the 18-year-old’s excitement.
“It’s funny, before the draft I went up to visit Calgary and when I got home I went to my parents’ house – Mom, Dad, I want to be a Calgary Flame and I want to play in Calgary,” said Bennett, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. “To have that come true now… it’s unbelievable.
“It sounds unbelievable, it’s a dream come true. For that to be true, it’s unbelievable.”
The Flames are equally excited.
“They’re all good players but Sam’s a guy we had our eye on from Day One,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “He brings a special combination of skill, speed and I’ve talked since Day One, the character, the intangible pieces. He oozes character. He plays with an edge. We’re real happy tonight.”
“Those are real good players picked one, two, three. We’re excited about the guy we got.”
Bennett, tagged by Central Scouting as the top-ranked North American skater heading into Friday’s event, had a feeling his dream would come to fruition.
The Edmonton Oilers made Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl their choice at No. 3 after Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad and Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart were selected with the first two picks.
When Draisaitl’s name was called, Bennett got excited.
And his desired destination, too.
“I really had a strong feeling Calgary was going to pick me but I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen with the other teams,” he said. “Definitely after the third pick was announced I knew Calgary was going to take me.
“It’s surreal that I have been draft and I couldn’t be happier.
“To end up in Calgary, I really couldn’t be happier.”
And it’s got him excited about the prospect of playing in Calgary.
“I loved the city, going there. I loved the atmosphere – I’ve heard so much about how much the fans love sports and hockey in the city,” said Bennett, who collected 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs this season. “Definitely all that and the great management they have there makes it exciting.”
Bennett will be given every opportunity to be a fixture in Calgary’s lineup starting in October.
Much like Sean Monahan a year ago, the 6-foot, 178-pound pivot will have a legitimate opportunity to earn an opportunity to trade his Frontenacs jersey for one with the Flaming C on the chest.
And Bennett likes his chances.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can this summer and I’m going to do everything I can to make the team right out of training camp.
“For sure. That’s 100 percent my goal is to play in the NHL next year and I’m going to do everything I can to make that possible.”
At 6-feet and tipping the scales at 178 pounds, Bennett won’t be rushed, though.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” Treliving said. “We’re going to spend a lot of time with Sam over the summer, working, make sure he’s prepared for training camp, but I want to be very clear from Day One, there is zero expectation or design to rush this player. Sam’s going to determine when he’s going to play. I think I was clear from the last few weeks. This wasn’t solely about who was ready in October. This is going to be who’s ready for the next 10 Octobers.
“This isn’t about whether he can jump in right now. It’s about having a really good summer, lets get to work, lets see where we are at development camp next week, see where we are in training camp and go from there. The timeline will be based upon where he gets to.”