Dougie’s been awesome for me. He’s been there for me on the ice, off the ice. He’s been a great mentor. I can talk to him about anything. It’s definitely pretty cool to call Doug Gilmour one of your friends. - Sam Bennett
TORONTO, ON -- There are plenty of links between the Calgary Flames and the 2014 NHL Draft.
It doesn’t take long to unearth one either. There’s one sitting at the top.
Sam Bennett, the top-ranked player in both Central Scouting's midterm and final ranking, has been mentored by former Flamesfor and current Kingston Frontenacs general manager Doug Gilmour.
“Dougie’s been awesome for me,” said Bennett, who had 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games under Gilmour’s watch this season in Kingston. “He’s been there for me on the ice, off the ice. He’s been a great mentor. I can talk to him about anything. It’s definitely pretty cool to call Doug Gilmour one of your friends.”
Gilmour spent parts of four seasons with the Flames, amassing 81 goals and 295 points in 266 games from 1988-89 to 1991-92.
Bennett, who wears No. 93 -- the number Gilmour wore for much of his career -- in Kingston, isn’t the only direct connection to Calgary’s Stanley Cup-winning team in 1989, either. And while Ryan MacInnis has only been to Scotiabank Saddledome twice in his life, his connection to Calgary is a little more direct.
He’s the son of former Flames great Al MacInnis, who was drafted by the Flames in the first round, 15th overall, of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.
While with the Flames, Al played in eight All-Star Games and was a key component of a Stanley Cup championship for Calgary in 1989. For his contributions in the playoffs that spring, including 7 goals and 24 assists in 22 games, MacInnis was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
In 803 regular season games played with the Flames, MacInnis recorded 822 points. He remains the career franchise record for assists with 609.
It’s helpful having a father that boasts such a resume resume, Ryan admitted.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said the 6-foot-3.5, 183-pound pivot who had 16 goals and 37 points for the Kitchener Rangers this season -- the same team his father suited up for in junior. “You get an opportunity to talk to a Hall-of-Famer every day, I guess. After every game, I’ll call him or he’ll call me and we’ll talk about the game. Just hanging out with him is great.
“He’s been around the game for a while. He knows the game. He criticizes me whenever he wants. He’s getting me better. I’m fine with that. It’s good that he’s there.”
Ryan, 18, made his first trip to the ‘Dome two years ago as Al was honoured in Calgary’s ‘Forever a Flame’ ceremony.
His most recent trip to the Stampede City was in January to compete amongst the best Canadian Hockey League draft eligibles in the CHL Top Prospects Game. He finished with an assist in Team Cherry’s 4-3 loss to Team Orr.
“It’s a little different getting the media on me,” he said. “But they still asked me about my dad. It was kind of cool.”
As close as Ryan's connection is to the Flames, though, a more current bond remains.
It also serves as the deepest-rooted.
Sam Reinhart, Central Scouting’s third-ranked North American skater, is the brother of Flames prospect Max Reinhart. His brother, Griffin, is also a prospect of the New York Islanders and was selected in the first round, fourth overall, in 2012.
He insists coming from such a lineage doesn’t come with any added stress.
“I don’t view it as pressure at all,” said Sam, who had 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games with the Kootenay Ice this year. “Obviously I don’t know what it’s like not having them around but I use it as an asset and really get as much advice as I can from them. They’ve helped me a lot.”
That holds true for father Paul as well, a former Flames defenceman who amassed 109 goals and 446 points in nine seasons with the Calgary and Atlanta Flames.
Being the product of an NHL dad has helped, the 18-year-old admitted.
“Everything I go through, he knows what it takes to make it to the next level so every part of my career he’s been there watching me closely,” Sam said. “It’s exciting having him. I’m sure he’s excited too for me and obviously my two brothers. I’m looking forward to the draft and what’s to come.”
William Nylander, the son of Michael Nylander, is also draft eligible. Michael spent parts of three seasons with the Flames in the late 1990’s, collecting 32 goals and 96 points in 147 games.
He's just another of many draft eligibles who are carrying on their name as potential second-generation NHLers.
Other NHL Draft connections include Kasperi Kapanen (son of Sami Kapanen) of KalPa in Finland, Portland Winterhawks center Dominic Turgeon (Pierre Turgeon), Sherbrook Phoenix center Daniel Audette (Donald Audette), center Ryan Donato (Ted Donato) of the Dexter School in Massachusetts, Barrie Colts left wing Brendan Lemieux (Claude Lemieux) and Plymouth Whalers defenceman Josh Wesley (Glen Wesley).