CALGARY, AB -- When Sam Bennett made his NHL postseason debut on Apr. 15 in Vancouver, the 18-year-old rookie, unsurprisingly, came out firing on all cylinders.
The Calgary Flames' first round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft is known for his seemingly never-ending energy and intensity level and wanted to make an impact -- quite a few players often come out guns a-blazing in their debuts and thrive on that adrenaline.
But Bennett isn't a flash in the pan.
The forward has continued to improve throughout the Flames first round series against the Vancouver Canucks, becoming one of their most consistent players.
"It’s his grit. Eighteen years old and playing in the NHL playoffs with so much character, it’s pretty amazing," Bob Hartley mused. "He has many things to learn. He’s fresh off junior, but what he brings is determination, grit, passion. That’s what you need in the playoffs.
"This kid is full of character. He offers a lot to make things happen for us, so he’s a big part of the team already."
He has found instant chemistry with his linemates -- Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne -- and the trio have been extremely effective on the forecheck. They are heavy on the puck, winning battles along the boards and pressuring the Canucks when they have possession and forcing turnovers.
The line has also been defensively responsible, making smart, simple plays in their own zone to deny the Canucks scoring opportunities or move the puck up-ice in a hurry.
In Game 1, Bennett collected his first NHL postseason point with an assist on Kris Russell's game-winner in the third period.
The Flames' offence was stymied in Game 2, falling 4-1 to the Canucks in Vancouver, but Bennett came up big in Game 3.
In the Flames first playoff game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in six years, Bennett became the youngest player in NHL history to score a game-winning goal in the postseason and he is now the second youngest player in Flames franchise history to net a goal in the playoffs.
"Sammy, you should have seen the smile on this kid’s face on the bench after his first goal," Hartley said. "He makes things happen out there. His speed, his determination, he’s a special young man."
He added his second goal of the year in Game 4, crashing the net and deflecting a shot from TJ Brodie
He and his linemates were held off the scoresheet in Game 5 but were the Flames' steadiest trio, consistently generating chances in the Canucks zone.
"They are playing great," Hartley stated. "I felt that Michael Backlund, his line last night, they produced. They had some good zone time, they were physical, defensively they were very strong."
If Bennett and his linemates continue to play they way they have in the first five games of the series, they could break a tight game open with their speed and tenacity.