PHILADELPHIA, PA — Sam Bennett didn’t have a say in which team was going to select him in the 2014 NHL Draft, but he had hoped it would be the Calgary Flames.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving stepped to the stage in Philadelphia and announced Bennett as Calgary’s top pick in the draft, much to the 18-year-old’s excitement.
“It’s funny, before the draft I went up to visit Calgary and when I got home I went to my parents’ house – Mom, Dad, I want to be a Calgary Flame and I want to play in Calgary,” said Bennett, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. “To have that come true now… it’s unbelievable.
“It sounds unbelievable, it’s a dream come true. For that to be true, it’s unbelievable.”
Bennett, tagged by Central Scouting as the top-ranked North American skater heading into Friday’s event, had a feeling his dream would come to fruition.
The Edmonton Oilers made Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl their choice at No. 3 after Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad and Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart were selected with the first two picks.
When Draisaitl’s name was called, Bennett got excited. And his desired destination, too.
“I really had a strong feeling Calgary was going to pick me but I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen with the other teams,” he said. “Definitely after the third pick was announced I knew Calgary was going to take me.
“It’s surreal that I have been draft and I couldn’t be happier. To end up in Calgary, I really couldn’t be happier.”
It’s got him excited about the prospect of playing in Calgary.
“I loved the city, going there. I loved the atmosphere – I’ve heard so much about how much the fans love sports and hockey in the city,” said Bennett, who collected 36 goals and 91 points in 57 games for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs this season. “Definitely all that and the great management they have there makes it exciting.”
Bennett will be given every opportunity to be a fixture in Calgary’s lineup starting in October.
Much like Sean Monahan a year ago, the 6-foot, 178-pound pivot will have a legitimate opportunity to earn an opportunity to trade his Frontenacs jersey for one with the Flaming C on the chest.
And Bennett likes his chances.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can this summer and I’m going to do everything I can to make the team right out of training camp.
“For sure. That’s 100 percent my goal is to play in the NHL next year and I’m going to do everything I can to make that possible.”
At 6-feet and tipping the scales at 178 pounds, Bennett knows he’s got an uphill climb.
“This summer working with Andy O’Brien,” he started, “and he’s definitely going to get me ready for the abuse I’m going to be taking next year.”
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