Despite his lack of man strength, 2014 Calgary Flames first-round pick Sam Bennett, selected fourth overall in Philadelphia, Pa. this past June, is probably NHL-ready in terms of his skill level. That doesn't mean that the Flames are going to burn the first year of his entry-level contract this upcoming season though. In fact, they don't appear to have the skilled forward penciled in for a roster spot at all.
"I would be shocked," said rookie Flames general manager Brad Treliving of Bennett's chances at training camp on Tuesday, per Sportsnet's Marc Spector.
It's not necessarily a surprise that Bennett, who is generously listed as weighing 179 pounds, will enter training camp as a long shot to make Calgary's NHL roster. Not only is Bennett slight of frame, but the Flames seem set at pivot, with Matt Stajan, Mikael Backlund and 2013 first-round pick Sean Monahan slated to hold down jobs on the top-three lines this upcoming season.
The Flames have also, generally, been resistant to rushing their first-round picks into the NHL. Though Monahan stuck with the club last fall, he's the exception to the rule. Since 1994, the only other Flames first-round pick to make the club's roster in his draft plus-one is Oleg Saprykin, who appeared in just four games during the 1999-2000 season.
The Flames signed Bennett to a three-year, entry-level deal in early July, but that contract can 'slide' for two years, so long as the skilled center doesn't appear in more than 10 NHL games during the 2014-15 or 2015-16 season.
"That’s gonna be my goal, in this camp and in training camp, to prove that I’m ready and do whatever I can to make the team," Bennett said this summer of trying to crack the Flames roster. "Any chance I get to prove my stuff, I’m going to take it and make the best of it."
It would seem that Bennett's goal of making the team won't be easily accomplished. Perhaps that's the angle that Treliving is playing at. Perhaps he's trying to get his newest young asset to show up at training camp with a chip on his shoulder.
If Bennett doesn't break camp with the Flames, that'll be good news for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. It'll also benefit Team Canada's U20 men's side. Canada hasn't won gold at the World Junior Championship tournament since 2009, and having Bennett on the roster – he'll be a shoe-in if he isn't in the NHL full-time – would give Canada its best shot of ending that winless streak at the 2015 tournament this January.