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Top prospect Bennett focused on making Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Sam Bennett isn't about to make any guarantees.

With two months until the opening of training camp, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft isn't feeling entitled to a spot on the Calgary Flames roster.

"I'm not going to say I'm going to make the team," Bennett said during Calgary development camp. "But that's definitely my goal and I'm just going to go out there and try my hardest to do whatever I can to make it. Whatever happens, happens.

"Definitely, I'm going to do whatever I can."

The rebuilding Flames are ripe with opportunities for their prospects. After finishing 27th in the League standings in 2013-14, Calgary has plenty of room for improvement and prospects like Bennett fit the youth movement the Flames have navigated toward.

But it will be up to Bennett to capitalize on that opportunity, much like Sean Monahan did last season. The No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft, Monahan stayed with the Flames all season and finished second on the team with 22 goals.

"There's jobs open, and quite frankly, as a young player, I don't know if there's a better situation or a better organization to be with," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. "We're looking for players, so don't think because you're a young player that there's not opportunity. You're going to have to earn it, but there's an opportunity.

"Hopefully that message has been received."

Treliving's message was delivered at development camp, which ran from July 4-9 and served as Bennett's official introduction to the Flames organization. The camp added to the optimism that the 18-year-old could find an NHL landing spot sooner rather than later.

"It's the first time we're spending time with him as our guy," said Treliving, who made Bennett his first pick after being hired in April. "There's a lot to like. He's a talented player. He comes as advertised, in terms of the intangible piece. This guy, he's a winner. He's a character kid. He's a driven kid.

"Now he's going to go home, he'll put some work in and we'll see where he gets at training camp."

Bennett's performance during the camp only heightened expectations come September. His spins during the summer skate made him hungrier for his first shot with the Flames.

"It was a great experience," said Bennett, who was Central Scouting's top-ranked North American skater heading into the draft. "I had a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work but I'm really excited and I just can't wait for training camp."

Development camp gave Bennett a better appreciation for what it will take to make an impression at training camp. He'll have a chance to put those experiences to test when he attends a national junior evaluation camp in Montreal that starts Aug. 3.

"I learned you've really got to pay attention to the details," he said. "That was a big focus by the coaching staff. Also, just the conditioning part is going to be huge to play in the NHL. That's got to be at its peak.

"That's going to be a lot of my focus. As soon as I get back, I'm going to step right back into the gym and train as much as I can until I have the Hockey Canada event. Conditioning is going to be huge."

So will readiness, according to Treliving.

"I find with a lot of young players, when we get into September you can't just stick your toe in the pool," he said. "You've got to jump in. We go two days and then we're playing preseason games so be ready to go at the start of camp, not three or four days into it. So the time between now and then, it's critical to come in the best possible shape.

"The message here this week is you've got two months left to get ready, so be ready."

Bennett plans to be.

"It definitely makes me want to make the team that much more," he said. "I'm so excited for training camp.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes."

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