I feel a lot more comfortable out there as this tournament’s gone on and I’m getting on the ice a little more. My confidence is definitely growing a lot. - Sam Bennett
PENTICTON, BC -- There will be no rest for Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau at the Young Stars Classic.
Both prospects will suit up in the Calgary Flames finale against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.
“In conversations with (general manager) Brad (Treliving) and (assistant GM) Brad (Pascall), there’s a lot of thought that goes into it as to who they want to see,” coach Ryan Huska said. “In this situation, it might be best served to play and then they can re-evaluate in regards to the U of C game coming up when we get back to Calgary.
"That might be a night he might not be in the lineup. We’ll go from there after tonight’s game.”
Bennett and Gaudreau have impressed through the first two games of the Young Stars showcase. Gaudreau, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner, has two goals and an assist while Bennett, Calgary’s top pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft, has one goal and two helpers.
More importantly are the constant improvements they’ve made, Huska said.
“Every day you look for improvements,” he said. “I think that’s one thing that we’ll expect out of them. I think it’s the small areas that we’ve asked the guys to focus on. We want to see if they’ve picked anything up. That’s the same for those two guys as well as everyone else who is in the lineup tonight.”
Bennett is hoping to see that continued improvement, too.
“I feel a lot more comfortable out there as this tournament’s gone on and I’m getting on the ice a little more,” he said. “My confidence is definitely growing a lot. That’s going to help my game, for sure.
“The first game, I think I was a little nervous. The second game, just getting that first game under my belt gave me a lot more confidence. Playing with guys like Johnny Gaudreau, that only helps with that as well. I’m looking to just keep building on my game as I get to play more.”
While Bennett and Gaudreau will return alongside Austin Carroll, another trio will be reunited Monday as Calgary takes on Vancouver in the tournament finale.
After a strong showing in Calgary’s 6-4 tournament-opening win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, Huska will again group Michael Ferland, Josh Jooris and Markus Granlund together.
“They had good chemistry,” Huska said. “I thought of the two games Michael played in particular, that was his best game. We’re looking for more of the same from him. Markus, it’s him getting back and making sure he’s consistent with his effort in a lot of different ways. He’s a guy who played last year, so we’ll look to him for a little bit of leadership tonight.”
BACK TO MAC
For the second straight game, the Flames will turn to Mason McDonald between the pipes.
“Mason, I thought he had some good moments in that first game and for a guy’s first game there’s a lot of nerves,” Huska said.” To be a goaltender, it can be intimidating. I think today, you noticed a more relaxed guy. That’s because he feels a little bit more comfortable. I’m expecting him to have a really good night.”
In his first game of the tournament Saturday, McDonald stopped 13 of 17 shots in a 4-3 loss to a loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
With that experience under his belt, the goaltender is eager for another start.
“The first game was pretty fun,” said McDonald, selected 34th overall in 2014. “I felt pretty comfortable in there. I think I got better as the game went on. The goals I look back on and hope to improve tonight. The goal is to get the win.”
The nerves, he admitted, aren’t nearly as bad in advance of his second go-round.
“They’re not too bad right now,” McDonald said. “I’m more prepared this time. I’m not really nervous going into tonight. When game time comes, I might be, but once I feel the puck I’ll be fine.”
“He’s got the ability to slow the game down. Everybody talks about speeding things up. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s very shifty so he’s able to spin from guys by moving his body in different directions. But he can slow the game down in a good way where he knows where people are coming late so a little spin or a little turn, often he’s able to find those late guys and because of that, there’s a tendency to make people around him better because he knows how to distribute the puck and he really has a handle of where people are on the ice.”
-Ryan Huska on Johnny Gaudreau
The puck drops at 6:30 PM MT. The Sport Chek stream can be viewed on CalgaryFlames.com, the Calgary Flames app, or the Calgary Flames YouTube channel.