Top prospect Sam Bennett has been selected with the fourth overall selection in the 2014 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames.
The NHL noted the selection of the extremely talented Canadian center:
Bennett took a major step forward in his second season with the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. He scored 91 points, including 36 goals, in 57 games. It was an increase of 51 points from his debut campaign and his plus-minus also jumped from minus-two to plus-34.
The strong season paired with the 18-year-old forward's intriguing upside made him Central Scouting's No. 1 overall prospect on its final list. He edged Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart for the distinction in a year without a clear top choice.
Bennett isn't just a scorer, either. He's a player who isn't afraid to play a physical brand of hockey with a high level of energy. That makes him very difficult to play against and is his ticket to a quick NHL jump since he can make an impact without scoring a bunch of points.
His playing style led to high praise in the form of a comparison to a current player by Dan Marr of Central Scouting, as noted by NHL PR:
Obviously Bennett has a long way to go before he reaches that level, but it's a link that makes sense. Jonathan Toews isn't a player who leads the league in scoring, but he has averaged nearly a point per game during his career while playing with a physical edge.
The result has been two gold medals, a Stanley Cup and three All-Star selections by the age of 26. Bennett can only hope he can enjoy that type of success early in his career.
There was an interesting moment at the NHL Scouting Combine that generated a lot of headlines. Bennett couldn't complete a single pull-up, which unsurprisingly led to an overreaction that questioned his status as an elite prospect.
If he had even done two or three it wouldn't have even been a story. That total wouldn't have made any difference in his ability to play hockey, of course. Upper-body strength is a factor, but it's something he can work on, and it certainly hasn't slowed his development down so far.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports passed along comments from Bennett, who was very accurate in his assessment of the situation:
I can do at least two. It's not really a big deal. It was just the wrong time to get zero. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger in the end. To experience this at a young age, maybe helps be [sic] get through something when I'm older.
Again, the difference between two pull-ups and zero is negligible and has no bearing on his long-term outlook as a prospect. He has plenty of time to fill out his frame, and he plays a physical brand of hockey even without elite upper-body strength.
Bennett should develop into a reliable two-way player with the upside of turning into a Toews-type franchise cornerstone. On the downside, he could be a third-line center with a moderate impact at both ends of the ice, which is still important but doesn't represent the value of a top prospect.
Based on his status as a top pick and his success with Kingston, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him make an immediate jump to the NHL. He doesn't have anything left to prove at the lower levels. Experience against top competition is the best asset he can gain right now.
All told, Bennett is a star in the making and has only scratched the surface of his potential.
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