Coming into the 2014 NHL draft, the Calgary Flames thought Sam Bennett was a can’t miss prospect. So did TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who described him as a great all-around centre.
With one goal and two assists in 20 games this season, all Flames fans must ask themselves, “What will Bennett actually be one day?”
This was the season for Bennett to break out and head coach, Glen Gulutzan thought it was his time. In the off-season, Gulutzan said, “You look at the maturation of these players, and he’s had a good summer. I’ve talked to him a couple of times. So I think that’s the young guy that if I want a big leap, I’d pick him.”
He hasn’t taken a big leap.
Bennett Given His Shots
Gulutzan initially started the season with Bennett as the team’s third line center and slotted veteran forward Jaromir Jagr beside him. Bennett didn’t seize that opportunity, recording zero points, and wasn’t able to do anything on the ice. Gulutzan then moved him to the wing after Mark Jankowski got the call to the NHL, and still Bennett couldn’t produce.
As Natural Stat Trick shows, Bennett is a career low 46% possession player this season, a stat in which he usually holds a 49%. However, he has 40 high danger scoring chances this season, a number that shows the effort is there, but the puck isn’t finding the back of the net. Everyone knows he’s trying. The compete level is there, but nothing is clicking for him.
Bennett leads the group of Flames floundering firepower that has issues of unbalanced scoring and little run support.
My thoughts? I think he’ll find his place in the NHL, but not as a star center like many thought when he was drafted. A more realistic role will be as a third line winger, where he is right now. He won’t take Matthew Tkachuk’s job on the second line and certainly won’t move ahead of the mighty Johnny Gaudreau as he is the leader and key to the Flames’ offence, so that leaves little to no room for Bennet to move up on the depth chart.
It also looks as though Jankowski will be staying down the middle on that third line, taking Bennett’s spot, but Jankowski deserves it; and somewhere, Jay Feaster is smiling, watching his dark horse draft pick make his way through the system.
Being pushed down the depth chart is something Bennett is going to have to overcome if he wants to thrive in the NHL.
But is he worth keeping? Not being able to move up to the first or second line might be an issue for him as those spots are filled for the foreseeable future. I can see a team that is rebuilding take a chance on Bennett if he can’t find a spot on the Flames.
He has given fans flashes of stardom, including a four-goal game against the Florida Panthers a year ago, but has also given fans headaches. It’s time to think about moving him.
Bennett hasn’t found his place in the NHL yet. A change of scenery might be good for him, and a team could give him a better opportunity than what’s available in Calgary: a chance to move up and become a top six player. A possible destination is the Vegas Golden Knights. As a new team looking to find their niche in the NHL, they could be searching for young talent to drive them forward in the future.
With many possible trade chips, the Golden Knights could provide the Flames with the right-wing help they need and have been searching for. It wouldn’t be a young talented forward, but a veteran who could help the Flames in the playoffs as they try to make that leap from a team who just squeezes into the playoffs but can never make a run.
I could see a number of teams making a move to acquire Bennett and help him rejuvenate his career, but time will tell if GM Brad Treliving actually wants to move him.
As the season continues, the Flames will see more of who Bennett is and what he can be. If it isn’t something the front office can see in their future plans, I believe a trade will happen to help the Flames turn things into “win now” mode.