Honestly I was just thinking, ‘Put me back out there, I want to go get another one’. I think that’s pretty much all I was thinking. I’m a guy that always wants more. I always want to do the best I can. That’s just what I am. - Sam Bennett
WINNIPEG, MB -- Sam Bennett is a quick study. Real quick.
Bennett earned his first NHL point 33 seconds into his career, knocking down a clearing attempt behind the net off the stick of Jets starter Michael Hutchinson and trying to stuff a wraparound across the line before having the puck pop into the slot for Micahael Ferland to bat into the net on the opening shift of the game.
“It was really exciting,” Bennett said. “Me and my linemates, we came out flying there and definitely it was real nice to get that out of the way. Ferland made an unbelievable play to help me get my first point.”
His next thought after recording his first point?
“Honestly I was just thinking, ‘Put me back out there, I want to go get another one,'” Bennett said. “I think that’s pretty much all I was thinking. I’m a guy that always wants more. I always want to do the best I can. That’s just what I am.”
It’s what coach Bob Hartley is looking for, too.
“What a start to a career and hey, I’m sure that there’s many more good games ahead,” he said.
“We want kids that can fit into our culture. We’re always talking about our commitment, we’re talking about our hard work. Well Sam Bennett really represents what we’re looking for.”
Bennett finished with the assist and one shot on goal in 16 minutes of ice time in what will be recorded as a 5-1 loss.
But in his mind, the loss will fall a distant second to the memory.
“It was a moment I’ve been waiting for for a very long time,” Bennett said. “It was definitely a really exciting day not only for me but my family as well. They came up. It was definitely a lot of fun. It’s a moment I’ve dreamt about for so long. It was a really special day.”
It was a debut he had to patiently wait for.
Looking to crack Calgary’s lineup out of training camp in September, the first pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft seemed well on his way.
But when it was announced the 18-year-old needed to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Bennett’s hopes, like he himself, were sidelined for five months.
Bennett remained in Calgary during rehabilitation, working with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Van Asten and participating in skates with other injured skaters. When cleared to return to practice three weeks into February, Bennett took several skates with the main group.
Again his debut was delayed, with the Flames optioning the teenage centre back to the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, where Bennett played the past two seasons.
After 14 regular season games and another four skates in the OHL Playoffs, Bennett returned to the Flames.
Again, his debut was delayed, with Calgary opting to scratch the 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward in an effort to teach him some of the finer points of the game from above.
There wasn’t a fourth.
Calgary punched their ticket into the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their first such berth in six seasons, to pave the way for Bennett’s debut in Game 82 of the regular season.
“It was a really special game,” he said. “I think skating around in warm up you couldn’t take the smile off my face. Come game time I tried to relax myself a little bit more and just focus on playing. I think that helped me.”
Bennett wasn’t alone in making his debut.
Defencemen Brett Kulak and John Ramage also used the season finale to get their first taste of the NHL.
“It was just a great honour,” said Ramage, who played 18:10 and recorded four shots and two hits. “Anytime I can represent the Calgary Flames, the team that drafted me, is just a huge honour for me to get the chance to come in and play one game.
“I found out yesterday during the afternoon. It was kind of a shock. I actually didn’t think they could call anyone else up. It was a shock but at the same time just excitement. I just wanted to get up here and prove what I could do.”
For Kulak, it was much of the same.
"I had a lot of fun with it. It was a good atmosphere. The crowd was really loud. It was a big change for me, for sure, but I had a lot of fun. The guys were great. It's a lot different hockey -- it's definitely a step up from the AHL -- but it was good."