PHILADELPHIA – Forward Sam Bennett knew right away which NHL city he wanted to call home.
After visiting Calgary, he went home to his parents and declared that he wanted to become a Flame.
The Flames made that happen on Friday, selecting the Holland Landing, Ont., native with the fourth overall pick of the NHL draft.
“I love the city,” he said. “I love the rink and the atmosphere. I’ve heard so much about how much the (people of Calgary) love hockey and the city. And the great management there has me really excited.
“To have that come true now … it’s just unbelievable.”
As a centre for the Kingston Frontenacs, Bennett wore No. 93 as a tribute to his father’s favourite player, Doug Gilmour.
Gilmour is the general manager of the OHL team and Bennett was his top scorer last season with 91 points (36-55) in 57 games. Bennett was also a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy, awarded to the league’s most outstanding player.
Rated the top North American prospect by NHL Central Scouting, the six-foot Bennett plays a game described by some as reminiscent of Gilmour’s. The OHL’s Eastern Conference Coaches Poll put him at the top in three categories: smartest player, best playmaker and best stick-handler.
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr even compared him to Chicago forward Jonathan Toews.
“Sam’s a guy we had our eye on from Day 1,” said Calgary GM Brad Treliving. “He has a special combination of skill, speed and I’ve talked about this since Day 1—the character, the intangible pieces, this guy oozes character, plays with an edge. We’re real happy tonight.”
Bennett’s inability to do a pull-up at the combine raised some questions about his strength, concerns both he and Treliving dismissed.
“It is what it is,” Bennett said of his performance at the combine. “I can do them now and I’m not too worried about it. I’ll be training and working out with (trainer) Andy O’Brien this summer, and he’s definitely going to get me ready to handle the abuse that I’ll be taking.”
“I’ve worried about a lot of things since the combine,” added Treliving. “Him not doing a pull-up is not one of them.
“He’s a 200-foot player, plays in all three zones, he brings pace, he brings offensive ability, he brings speed and plays for keeps. This guy is a competitive player.”