With the third overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers hold a key piece to their future. They will also have a few options with that pick, depending on how the first two picks fall with Florida and Buffalo ahead of the Oilers in the line to the draft podium.
Edmontonoilers.com will be profiling some of the NHL’s top prospects leading up to the draft at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 27-28.
Today, we focus on Sam Bennett.
Kingston Frontenacs centre Sam Bennett was named the top North American prospect by Central Scouting Services. He ranked ahead of potential first overall picks Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart.
"There are guys who elevate their game when it matters most, and you're looking to project which players will do that consistently at the next level," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said on NHL.com. "The guys we have at the top all are in that mold, but when we look at Sam Bennett we see a guy who could potentially have a Jonathan Toews type of career."
Bennett finished the OHL season with 36 goals and 55 assists for 91 points in 57 games. He finished the regular season +34 with 118 penalty minutes, scoring at a 1.6 point-per-game clip. His season came to an end after Kingston was booted from the OHL playoffs after seven games. He finished the playoffs with nine points (5-4-9).
Bennett received the most votes in the OHL's Eastern Conference Coaches Poll for the smartest player, best playmaker and best stick-handler awards.
He is the young one out of the top tier prospects. The Toronto, Ontario native will turn 18 on June 20. He is also a bit smaller than some of the other top prospects. Bennett is 6’ 0.25’’ and 178 pounds.
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He makes up for his size with the way he plays on the ice.
Bennett has been described as a ‘sandpaper’ forward. He’s a competitive kid who plays with passion and grit, the kind of attitude that Edmonton General Manager Craig MacTavish likes. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported earlier this month that an NHL executive said Bennett’s compete level and passion for the game rivalled, now retired Oiler, Ryan Smyth. He also drew comparisons to another passionate player.
“Competes all over the ice. Plays like Doug Gilmour,” Matheson reports.
Gilmour, the current general manager of Bennett’s Frontenacs, was dubbed ‘fearless’ by Sports Illustrated in 1998 for his sacrificial tendencies and overall drive and compete level. If Bennett, with all his natural talent could compete with the same fire as Gilmour, he projects very well. Gilmour finished his NHL career with over 1,400 games under his belt.
Gilmour has been Bennett’s mentor and he wears number 93 has tribute.
“He’s been a huge influence on me personally,” Bennett told NHL.com. “He’s helped me so much, he’s been there, he’s had the experience and when he tells you something or gives you advice, it’s really easy to listen to a guy like him.”
Bennett excels when he becomes emotionally and physically involved in the game. When he’s checking, mucking things up and playing a solid defensive game, good things happen.
“The type of player I am is a two-way forward who likes to look after his own end but also has some offensive skill and likes to put pucks on the net,” Bennett said in an interview with NHL.com.
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“When I’m playing my best, I’m involved in all aspects of the game. I’m getting involved in scrums, hitting and setting up plays and just doing all the right things in the defensive zone as well as the offensive zone.”
Aside from Gilmour, Bennett says he models his game after Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards. The Kings player stands at 5’11’’ and weighs 196 pounds. Smaller in stature, Richards plays the type of two-way game that Bennett covets.
“I always used to say Mike Richards from LA is a player that I always used to model my play after. He’s a great leader and he definitely can play the two-way game.”
With Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins putting a premium on his offensive playmakers defending their own end first, Bennett has the type of compete level and attitude that would be welcomed by the club.
As MacTavish and Eakins have both said the team is looking for competitive players to help drive the team, Bennett is someone who could very well be at play for the Oilers. But there are still several other options and a lot more research and discussion left to be done before the Oilers make their pick.
What do you think of Sam Bennett? Could he help bolster the Oilers’ scoring outside of the top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle? Could he be the second centre in a one-two punch with Nugent-Hopkins? What are your thoughts?
We’ll take a look at another prospect shortly.