Player: Sam Bennett
Drafted By: Calgary Flames (4th overall)
Position: Left Wing
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 1 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'0'', 181 lbs
DOB: June 20, 1996 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: OHL, Kingston Frontenacs
Sam Bennett is the top-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting. Bennett had a breakout season in 2013-14, doubling his goal total from his rookie OHL season and more than doubling his point total over the 2012-13 season.
During the regular season, Bennett tallied 91 points in 57 games, adding nine points in seven contests during the playoffs despite playing with a groin injury.
There are a ton of reasons why Bennett earned the top rating from Central Scouting. The biggest reason is his all-around versatility and competitive spirit.
Full Scouting Report
While Bennett is 6’0” and just 181 pounds, he plays a non-stop physical game that belies his lack of bulk. Bennett doesn't have one area of his game that is outstanding but is very good at almost every aspect of the game and in all three zones. Of all the top prospects in this year's draft, Bennett is the most responsible in his own zone.
Bennett goes all out on the ice. Central Scouting's David Gregory had this to say about him before the draft:
He plays the kind of game you think cannot be sustained for a whole season because it’s a high-energy game and compete game at all ends of the ice. He ends up playing that game for the whole year. He just never stops, and put that with the skill package he has and how well he thinks the game, he’s pretty much a top-notch player.
Another scout told The Hockey News in their draft preview issue that Bennett has "Elite offensive skill and vision. May have the strongest stick in the league. Never gets outmuscled and torques his body to win battles."
NHL Player Comparison
Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. Bennett plays well in all three zones, is capable of being physical despite having only average size and has great vision, speed and hockey sense. He also possesses leadership qualities.
Bennett has elite talent, but his lack of size and his failure to do even one pull-up at the scouting combine means he may be one year away from playing in the NHL. He will get his nine-game tryout, after which his new team will decide to either keep him in the NHL or return him to Kingston for one more year of junior hockey. Either way, he'll be in the NHL by 2015-16 at the latest.
At his top potential, Bennett is an All-Star, first-line center who can top out at 90-95 points. He could become a team captain down the road and a regular at the NHL Awards and All-Star Game.
Bennett can score 30-35 goals a year with his hockey smarts and his habit of keeping his stick on the ice. His vision and playmaking skills mean he is capable of 50-60 assists as well. He should be one of those players who makes his linemates better.