It is a surreal feeling. It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of since I was little and now I can officially say I’m part of the Flames organization. It’s a huge honour in itself to be able to say that. I’m so happy. - Sam Bennett
CALGARY, AB -- Understandably, Sam Bennett hasn’t had much of a chance to catch his breath.
In less than a month, Bennett has gone from anxiously awaiting hearing his name to being the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft to Calgary Flames development camp.
He can add his first professional contract to the mix too, signing a three-year, entry-level deal with the Flames on Friday.
“It really is just a dream come true,” Bennett said. “It feels unbelievable. It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life and now that I’ve finally done it, it really is amazing.
“It really is surreal. When I did finally put the pen to the paper, it was an amazing feeling. You know, it really is. It feels unbelievable.
“It is a surreal feeling. It’s a moment I’ve dreamed of since I was little and now I can officially say I’m part of the Flames organization. It’s a huge honour in itself to be able to say that. I’m so happy.”
Bennett becomes the 12th member of the 2014 draft class to sign a pro deal, joining Sam Reinhart (No. 2, Buffalo Sabres), Brendan Perlini (No. 12, Phoenix Coyotes), Jakob Vrana (No. 13, Washington Capitals), Julius Honka (No. 14, Dallas Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (No. 22, Pittsburgh Penguins), Jared McCann (No. 24, Vancouver Canucks), David Pastrnak (No. 25, Boston Bruins), Nikita Scherbak (No. 26, Montreal Canadiens), Ivan Barbashev (No. 33, St. Louis Blues), Vitek Vanecek (No. 39, Washington Capitals) and Jesper Pettersson (No. 198, Philadelphia Flyers).
The timing wasn’t a concern for Bennett, who didn’t doubt a deal between he and the Flames would get struck this summer.
“There was no real rush for it,” said Bennett, who had 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games with the Kingston Frontenacs this season. “I mean, we had to make sure it was done right and there was no rush. We took our time. I wasn’t really too worried about the contract. I really let my agent deal with that mostly.
“I’m happy to get it over with and now my complete focus is on training and all these camps coming up.”
Flames general manager Brad Treliving capped a busy week with Bennett, signing the Frontenacs standout after re-upping restricted free agents Joe Colborne and Joni Ortio.
Like Bennett, the Flames GM knew it was only a matter of time before inking the club’s latest first rounder.
“I think with Sam, obviously we were going to sign him,” Treliving said. “I don’t think there was any mystery there. It’s just a matter of getting him slotted in. I think with Sam, it’s a good situation where you get the contract behind him and as I talked to him the other day, now the real work starts.
“At development camp, my comment was, at that date there was no real urgency to rush out and get something done. We knew we were going to sign Sam. It fell into place in the last week or so. It’s good to get it out of the way and there are no other distractions for him preparing for camp.”
Main camp in Calgary will be Bennett’s next hurdle.
While the 6-foot-1, 178-pound centre is expected to attend both Hockey Canada’s summer development camp and the Youngstars Tournament in Penticton, Bennett’s focus is on making the Flames out of training camp.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can in training camp and do whatever I can to make the team,” he started, “but I have a lot of faith in the Flames organization and I think whatever decision they make is going to be the right one for me.”
Meaning Bennett knows he’s no lock for a roster spot just yet. Treliving has told him as much.
“The one thing I want to state clearly is there’s no pressure here on Sam to jam him into the lineup,” Treliving said. “My expectation, quite frankly, is I’m preparing myself for Sam to be a junior player this year. Sam’s going to have to make the team and he’s going to have to make a real compelling case to be here.
“If he does, good on him and good for us. Then he’s earned his way onto the team.”
If not, he’ll spend his third season in the Ontario Hockey League.
That’s not necessarily a disappointing notion for the Toronto, ON native.
“I would be completely comfortable with that,” Bennett said. “Some players take a little bit longer to develop, (but) I do have my mind set on being with the Flames next year though so that’s going to be the goal.”
And if he’s able to accomplish it, he’ll add another surreal experience in what’s been a whirlwind summer for the 18-year-old.