While the Calgary Flames can count on the offensive production from Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan while boasting one of the deepest defence groups in the league, one X-factor for them this season could be an unsigned 21-year-old.
Sam Bennett, the fourth-overall draft pick in 2014, is still a bit of a mystery. Going from 36 points as a rookie to 26 as a sophomore last season, Bennett has shown flashes of his potential, but not the consistency needed. He’s also fought a few fights along the way, which is maybe not the first thing you’d want to see from a player of his sort.
This season, we should find out a little more about who Bennett is as an NHLer. Is he a centre for the third line? Can he play effectively as a winger on the top line? Will he enter “bust” territory?
At this point, the RFA without arbitration rights is still without a contract two weeks away from the opening of training camp. But in an interview with Eric Francis in the Calgary Herald, Flames GM Brad Treliving said he’s not only confident they’ll get a deal done, but that Bennett will start trending up.
“We’re going to get Sam signed,” Treliving told Francis. “Every contract is unique and takes its own course. We’re working away at it and we think Sam is going to be a good player in this organization for a long time. He’s growing and I know he’s had a good summer. We’ll keep banging away at it.”
With the Flames’ improvement on the blue line and in net it looks like they’ll be one of the more serious contenders for the Western Conference crown. That push has led to rumours the team is after a veteran scorer or two — perhaps even to play on the top line, rather than turning back to Micheal Ferland, or perhaps Bennett.
“I don’t know where all this talk comes from — we certainly never made a statement saying we’re looking at so-and-so,” Treliving said.
“Are we going to go to camp with the group we have? Good chance. Are we poking around at a few things and could there be additions before camp? Yes. Is that a guarantee? No.
“I wouldn’t say there’s anything significant on the horizon, but we look at everything every day.”