After being drafted in the first round, fourth overall by the Calgary Flames in last year’s draft, Sam Bennett’s season was derailed by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 59 regular season games.
The injury, said Bennett at the time, dated back to the year prior. He fought through the injury in order to try to make the Flames out of training camp, but eventually the pain from the torn labrum was enough that Bennett required surgery.
Now, after a 15-game stint back in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs, Bennett is finally getting his crack at the NHL. The Flames announced Friday afternoon that they have recalled Bennett from the OHL, and while the exact date of his debut is not known, it appears he could make his NHL debut as soon as Saturday in the Battle of Alberta when Calgary takes on the Edmonton Oilers.
In his 15 games in the OHL – the first 15 games of his 2014-15 season – Bennett put on a show. In 11 regular season games, Bennett registered 11 goals and 24 points and added another three assists in four playoff games. Unfortunately for Bennett and the Frontenacs, the post-season was cut short thanks to a four-game sweep at the hands of the North Bay Battalion.
"I had a lot of rust my first couple games," Bennett told the Flames website. "I was still able to get some points but the first couple of games, I didn’t feel quite like myself. But it really didn’t take too long to get back – probably four or five games. Then, I felt back to normal, back to where I wanted to be, where I am now.”
And where he is now is the NHL, with his team, the Flames, in a tough battle for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. There were reports late Thursday and early Friday that Bennett would be recalled to the Flames, but they were countered with some believing the plans had changed and that Bennett would sign an amateur tryout with the Adirondack Flames and begin his professional career this season in the AHL.
With four games left in Calgary’s season, they’re a point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the third spot in the Pacific Division and will take on the Oilers, Coyotes, Kings and Jets before the season closes.
The final two games – the matchups against Los Angeles and Winnipeg – will be the key ones for Calgary. That the Flames feel confident in Bennett, the second ranked prospect in THN’s 2015 Future Watch issue, to come in at this point in the season is a testament to his ability.
"I prepare myself to be ready, every day,” Bennett said. “I’m going to be ready to play, if asked. That’s the coaches decision, obviously, but I’m prepared to go."
If the Flames make the playoffs, expect Bennett to be in the lineup more often than not. There’s a reason he was held onto by the big club so late into the season, and they’re confident in his ability.
There has been no official word on when Bennett will get his first taste of game action in the NHL, but you can expect it to be before the season is through. If not against the Oilers, Bennett will likely draw in against the Coyotes.