Flames sign first-round pick Bennett
But team would still like for centre to play another year of junior
One general manager wants the boy back in junior.
The other general manager, well, that’s kind of what he would like to see, too.
With Sam Bennett signing an entry-level deal Friday with the Calgary Flames, both sides of the hockey equation are buzzing.
It’s not much of a debate, though.
Their wishes end up being somewhat similar.
There’s Doug Gilmour, who is Bennett’s boss with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“I’m going to be selfish. I want him back,” Gilmour told Sportsnet.ca the other day. “But if he makes it, good for him.”
There’s Brad Treliving, who snagged Bennett fourth overall at the National Hockey League draft last month. He wants what’s best for Bennett, slender and gritty.
“I want to caution everybody,” Treliving said Friday evening. “I know we’re coming off a season where we saw Sean Monahan do what he did. First off, that’s the exception rather than the rule. Secondarily, you’ve got Sam who, quite frankly, is considerably younger going into his first training camp. Although it might not seem like it, those eight, nine months are a difference.
“In my mind, I see Sam being a junior player next year. By no means am I pencilling him into any lineup at this particular time. We didn’t select Sam just so we can stick him in our lineup and he can get there really, really fast.
“He’ll be there when he’s ready to be there. I’m always very cautious with 18-year-old people … because this is the big boys’ club.”
Not that Treliving is writing off the six-foot-one native of Holland Landing, Ont.
Bennett himself has declared, more than once, that he’s ready for the NHL.
“We put it in the player’s hands — we hold tryouts in September,” said Treliving. “Sam and I have had a lot of chats over the last few weeks. My message to him — the biggest challenge for young players, especially at their first training camp, is you don’t realize how hard it is … but at least be in the best possible shape you can. That’s what he can control — putting his nose to the grindstone and making sure that his fitness level is where it needs to be.
“The rest? We’ll just see how things go.”
The contract stands as another landmark for Bennett.
But much different than the other one.
At the draft in Philadelphia, a crammed rink had looked on. A national-television audience was rapt. Radio listeners had been glued to the action. For Internet users, the night meant refresh, refresh, refresh.
“The draft was a lot more exciting, a lot more nerve-racking,” Bennett said, “because I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen.”
Momentous, but on a much smaller scale — at least publicly.
Just the kid and his father, Dave, and agent Darren Ferris — sitting in an Etobicoke, Ont., restaurant and having a quiet lunch. There, Bennett formalized the three-year entry-level deal.
“Definitely, it is a huge day for me,” Bennett said two hours after scribbling his signature on the dotted line. “I’m so excited to get this over with. It’s a moment I’ve thought about forever, since I was little.
“It went pretty smoothly actually. I’m happy with how it went — and happy we got it done so quickly.”
Bennett has no immediate plans for his signing bonus.
But he hinted that his current ride — a truck — may be soon upgraded to an Audi.
There is, however, precious little time for car-shopping.
In a week, Bennett and a few dozen other teenage hopefuls travel to Quebec for the start of the national-junior team’s summer camp. The get-together includes friendlies with Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic.
“I’ll definitely have a lot of confidence,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting tournament. And any time you get a chance to represent Canada, you always want to perform your best and make your country proud. Definitely I’m looking forward to it.”
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