Getting to know Sam Bennett

sam-bennett

Sam Bennett will turn 18 one week before the 2014 NHL entry draft. His belated birthday present to himself will be hearing his name called early in the draft, most likely within the top five picks. Bennett told me is 6’1″ and 180 pounds, and that he plans to add between 5-10 pounds this summer before he heads to an NHL camp.

I spoke with Bennett yesterday and we discussed his feisty, two-way game, Aaron Ekblad and why he feels more comfortable playing centre rather than on the wing.

Bennett is very determined to be an NHL player, and whichever team drafts him, they will be getting an extremely competitive player.

Gregor:  How would you describe your game?

Bennett: A two-way forward who isn’t afraid
to lay the body and get involved in the chippy stuff as well as being able to
create some offense and put the puck in the net.

Gregor:  Your general manager is Doug Gilmour and a
lot of people say ‘this guy is kind of like Doug Gilmour’ and for a current
NHLer some suggest Jonathan Toews. Do you see a comparison at all?

Bennett: Ah, yeah, well I don’t know if I
can say a comparison, but I can definitely say that I try to model my game off
of them. They’re definitely unbelievable players, and they’re definitely guys
that I’ve looked up to in the past. If people are comparing me to those guys,
that’s definitely really special.

FEISTY…

gilmore510

Gregor:  Has Doug talked to you about your game
because he was a pretty ferocious player who was highly competitive. He wasn’t
the biggest guy on the ice, but he battled really hard. Have you had those
conversations with him?

Bennett: We haven’t talked too much about
my style of play but he’s definitely, he’s definitely been there for me. If I
needed advice on something or if I need help with anything I could just go to
him and talk to him and he has so much experience and when he gives advice it
definitely helps a lot.

Gregor:  I saw you throw down in a really spirited
scrap as a 17 year old in junior, something not many skilled guys are willing
to do. Where does that feistiness come from, have you always had that in your
game?

Bennett: Yeah, ever since I was growing up,
I always used to play with the physical edge and always loved to initiate and I
never back away from anything. I think that that’s just something that I had my
whole life and I’m going to continue to do it.

Gregor:  Do teams try to take advantage of that? Do
you find that they try to goad you into things?

Bennett: Ah, yeah. I did a few times. I do
have a tendency to get a little bit too excited and, sometimes I lose my composure and I guess teams will try to get under my skin a little bit. But
that’s going to happen, and I just have to know when to initiate and when to
settle down and do what’s best for my team.

Gregor:  It’s a fine line isn’t it Sam; you want to be
a guy that plays with an edge, and if you play that way every now and then you’re
likely going to cross that line.

Bennett: Yeah, for sure. Definitely Todd
Gills has been working with me on that this year and there is definitely a
really fine line between playing with an edge and crossing the line.

Gregor:  What is your workout schedule like between
now and the draft?

Bennett: I’m still resting right now. I’m
going to start up with my trainer Andy O’Brien sometime next week and just go
to work five times a week as hard as I can and try to get ready for the Combine
at the end May and get ready for next season.

Gregor:  So you’re working out five times a day and
you’re still finishing up High School?

Bennett: I’m still finishing up High School
so it is pretty hectic right now, but once I’m done that it’s a little easier
in the summer.

Gregor:  You got any classes you enjoy in High School?
What’s your favourite
?

Bennett: Ah…. Probably gym class. [Laughs]
For most hockey players that’s their favourite class.

Gregor:  Do you have a tutor in Kingston?

Bennett: I didn’t have one in Kingston, no, but there
was definitely one available if I needed one. but we had great support on the
ice as well as off of the ice. Education, development and we had a bunch of
people supporting us in any aspects of our life really

Gregor:  You’re a 17 year old player leading his team
in scoring; there is a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility. Are you a
guy that’s a leader naturally?

Bennett: Yeah, I’d like to think so. I
guess I’m not one of the older guys on the team, but still I always try to lead
by example more than anything on the ice as well as off of the ice. So, that’s
actually something that I’ve always played with and I always try to be as much
of a leader as I can.

Gregor:  Who was your biggest personal rival in the Ontario Hockey League
this year?

Bennett: Ah… I’d say Scott Laughton from
the Oshawa Generals. We had one pretty good scrap this year and every time
we’ve played it’s been pretty frisky that’s for sure.

Gregor:  Are you better when you’re emotionally
involved in a game?

Bennett: Yeah, I think so. I say that there
is a line again, if I get too emotionally involved it will throw me off of my
game, but if I’m in the game and I’m hitting and I’m getting in the dirty areas
that’s definitely when I’m playing my best.

Gregor:  What do you want to improve this off season
as far as your physical attributes? Is there one area that you want to focus on
that will make you better on the ice?

Bennett: Well definitely I need to get a
little bit bigger, a little bit stronger in every aspect but I’d say that one
thing that I would be looking to improve is definitely leg strength. That will
allow me to be able to battle in the corners and hold my balance. You never
know where I will be playing next year, there could be a lot bigger guys so
I’ll definitely have to be prepared for anything.

Gregor:  What do you do away from hockey so you’re not
hockey all of the time, what are some of your hobbies?

Bennett: Well, in the summer I have a
cottage up in Haliburton [Ontario]
and I like to get up there and water ski and go fishing and I love all of that
stuff, so I definitely try to get up there a few times each summer and just get
away from it for a while.

Gregor:  What’s the biggest fish you ever caught?

Bennett: Ah… probably 10 pounds.

Gregor:  Ok, not bad.

Bennett: I’m not ot a pro fisher.

Gregor:
No, but you’re young man. You’ve got a lot of time. Tell me about Todd Gill as
a head coach, what made him good?

Bennett: He’s got the experience. He played
many years in the NHL so he was a great, great coach and he knew when to be
hard on you and when to let off a little. So he definitely was always there to
give good advice and he was a great coach for us.

TWO-WAY PLAYER

2012-06-21T005627Z_01_LAV24_RTRMDNP_3_USA.r

Gregor:  You described yourself as a two-way player,
not many young offensive players are concerned with being good defensive
players. Where did that willingness to want to be a great two-way player come
from?

Bennett: Well, again, always growing up I
wasn’t all offense. I was always looking after the defensive zone as well. So
to play in the NHL, which is obviously the ultimate goal, you can’t just be one
dimensional, you’ve got to be able to play the full 200 foot game, so that’s
definitely part of the game that I’ve always been working on.

Gregor:  What is the hardest part about playing
defence?

Bennett: I’d say when you’re trapped in
your own end for a little and the other team has the cycle going and you’re
bagged from being in the offensive zone, and now you’ve got to come in and work
as hard as you can in the defensive zone. That’s definitely when it gets a
little tough.

Gregor:  Do you feel you’re more of a shooter or a
play maker?

Bennett: Ah, I’d like to think that I’m
more of a play maker, but I’m also not afraid to shoot the puck as well.

Gregor:  Did you play the point in the power point at
all in Kingston?

Bennett: I tried it for a while, but it
didn’t really work out too well, so we went back to just leaving me on the half
wall.

Gregor:  What was it that didn’t work out?

Bennett: I don’t know. Maybe it was just
that I wasn’t as comfortable there as I am on the half wall. I’ve never really
played that part of the game, so it was a little different for me being up
there, but Todd Gill and the other part of our coaching staff definitely helped
to figure out what worked best for our team.

Gregor:  How do you look at the overall, long term
success of your career, do you think that the NHL is the best step for you at
this point?

Bennett: Ah, well.. Obviously it is going
to be this goal my summer to work as hard as I can to be able to make that team
in September, but you know… whatever happens, whatever the NHL team decides to
do is going to be fine with me. If they decide to send me back to Junior, I’m
going to work as hard as I can to get ready for the next step to be able to
move up.

Gregor:  Do you find yourself looking at the draft
order and doing a mock draft thinking ‘hey I think that this team might take
this guy, I think that this team might take this guy and they might take me?

Bennett: Yeah, I have done that a little
bit maybe. I say when the draft lottery came out and we knew for sure who was
picking where, you definitely start to think about who is going to take who and
it goes through your head a little bit.

Gregor:  Did you ever see yourself being taken by the Edmonton Oilers?

Bennett: [Laughs] You never know, it could
happen.

Gregor:  You’ve played about Ekblad give me your
scouting report, what’s the best part of Ekblad’s game?

Bennett: He’s a great player. I’ve played
with him for a while now and he’s unbelievably strong and he’s
definitely got one of the hardest shots that I’ve ever seen. When he has it on
the point, you’ve got to get in the shooting lanes, or it’s probably going to
end up in the back of the net for sure.

Gregor:  Have you played only centre, or do you switch
between centre and wing this year?

Bennett: Not this year. I did it a little
bit before, but I’d say I’ve mostly played centre this year. I am comfortable
on the wing, it’s just wherever the coach wants me to play, and that’s where
I’ll play.

Gregor:  What do you like better about centre than the
wing?

Bennett: I’d say you get more ice, you get
more room, you’re not trapped up along the sideboards and you definitely can
generate more speed up the middle.

WRAP UP….

Bennett is an offensive player who takes pride in his defensive play, which is rare for most 17 year olds. Everyone loves his competitiveness and drive. He wants the puck and he isn’t afraid to go into the tough areas with it. I love the fact that he has skill, but also plays with some passion, and admits that at times his fire gets the best of him. He’ll work on it, but I’d rather have a player you need to calm down than one you need to constantly prod to get inspired.

The one concern about Bennett is his size. Ross Maclean, head scout for ISS hockey said, “The one concern with Bennett is his frame. Winning space at the next level is very difficult.”

A concern doesn’t mean it is a red flag. Every player has some concerns about their game, but most scouts feel Bennett’s internal fire and drive will make him a successful NHL player.

KARAOKE KING/QUEEN

karaoke-02

Our 2nd annual King/Queen of Karaoke goes on Friday May 23rd.

If you think you can sing, or know someone who can get them to email a short 30 second-1 minute video audition tape to gregor@tsn1260.ca before May 15th. We will pick the top-12 videos, and they along with a few guest celebrity Karaokiers will battle it out on May 23rd.

This year’s winner will win $1,000.

Last year was a great night and the performances were top notch, and the odd one was a tad off key, Struds, but it was a great night.

Tickets are $30/each with 100% of the proceeds going to the MS Bike Tour, and
with your $30 ticket you get  a free drink at the door and $45 in gift certificates from On The
Rocks and Oodle Noodle. So you make money by supporting the cause. You can buy your tickets here.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Zarny

    Gregor,

    I don’t always agree with you, but I very much appreciate your interviewing skills. You always ask great questions and usually one I want an answer to and many I never think about. Another great interview.

    I’d take Draisaitl because we need skilled, size, but Bennett seems like an excellent 2nd option.

    • Jason Gregor

      Thanks Don, or is that my mom posting as an alias? Either way, much appreciated.

      Bennett and Draisaitl would both help. I’m very curious to see who they take. I like both for different reasons, but I lean towards Draisaitl. I don’t buy the “he is lazy.” I haven’t seen anyone credible actually say that, so I think it is just the typical bashing that happens to most top players. .

      • Bucknuck

        Draisaitl seems to me he might be similar to Penner: a great hockey player and makes a lot of room on the ice, but doesn’t use his size the way “he should”. In this town, i think that might be a recipe for disaster. Penner was run out of town despite leading the team in scoring.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Not sure I would use .. great player.. and Penner in the same sentence!

          The slug in his short career is on his fifth team, soon to be six. Guy shows up to play once every ten games or so.

          Keep him away from here.

          • Bucknuck

            You just made my point exactly.

            I’m not here to discuss the benefits of Dustin Penner. Love him or hate him, he is a big body with skill and he doesn’t use either as much as the fanbase would like. I don’t think anyone will argue that point.

            Sounds like Draisaitl, don’t you think.

            The fanbase in Edmonton would run a guy with a big body who doesn’t use it out of town. Like they did to Penner, Gilbert, Pajaarvi and what they are trying to do to Petry.

  • Bucknuck

    The Oilers should trade the 1st round pick for a NHL player.

    Oilers have proved that their first round picks are not ready to play NHL hockey for 2 to 4 years. Why would Bennett or whoever be any different

    Last year RNH struggled (got injured playing against men), Yak had a very poor season, Eberle was so so, Shultz struggled. The only one who played well was Hall (still at a minus).

    If Bennett or whoever they select make the team the Oilers will once again be at the bottom.

    Oilers should help the young players that they already have with veterans. If the Oilers don’t start winning in the next year or so the existing young guys, Hall, Eberle, Yak, TNH, Shultz will want out.

    • Zarny

      If they take bennett I assume they will send him to junior, he’s the youngest of all the centers and needs more time to develop and max out his size. this draft will not solve our 2C this year. Its MacTs job to get some Vet center there.

      • Zarny

        Not a single kid in this year’s draft is considered to be as good as MacKinnon.

        In fact, not a single kid in this year’s draft would have been taken in the top 5 last year.

        Not all draft years are the same and this is a weak draft year.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Edmonton is a bottom six team next season no matter what happens.

      Please, just stop all this trading 100.00 bills for 4 twenties. Haven’t we had more than our share of this these last 20 years….

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Sell the farm and get both Bennett and Draisaitl.

    It’s not like we can’t use both of these kids.

    Purchasing that 4th/6th selection will be more affordable than say the top 2 selections would.

    • Zarny

      There is nothing special about Bennett or Draisaitl compared to Nuge or Yakupov. Neither would be a top 5 pick in most draft years.

      What on earth makes you think adding more 18 y/o will do anything but perpetuate losing? Why would the Oilers double down on a weak draft year? What are you going to do when Draisaitl still doesn’t put up more than 35 pts in 3 years?

      Trading the pick isn’t exchanging $100 bills or four $20. That’s silly to suggest.

      Who would you rather have? Cory Schneider or Bo Horvat?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        If you’re looking to barely make the playoffs and be first round road kill then maybe overpaying to bring in a bandaid type solution might be an option.

        Stay the course, rebuild from within. Sooner or later there will be a group gel together. Contrary to your belief Zarny, players less than 24 yrs of age have won the cup before. The Oilers will soon have some of their kids in that preferred demographic of yours.

        • Zarny

          Once again, who said anything about bringing in a band-aid type solution? You clearly don’t understand the value of a 3rd overall pick if you think the return is a band-aid.

          And no, no team has won the Stanley Cup being anchored around 20 y/o.

          The closest is probably the Pens in 2009. Sid, Malkin, Staal, Letang, Fleury, Goligoski and Talbot were young. Every other player was 27 y/o + and the D core was anchored by 30-36 y/o.

          In 2006, the Hurricanes won with Brind’Amour (35), Stillman (32), Whitney (33), Cole (27), Cullen (29), Recchi (37), Weight (35) and Wesley (37). Craig Adams (28) and Kevyn Adams (31). Staal (21) and Ward (21) were the only real young contributors.

          In 2007, Ana was led by Selanne (36), McDonald (29), Niedermayer (33), Kunitz (26), Pronger (31), Beauchemin (26), Pahlsson (28), Marchant (33). Getzlaf (21), Penner (23) and Perry (21) were the only young contributors.

          In 2008, Detroit was led by Datsyuk (29), Zetterberg (26), Lidstrom (37), Rafalski (33), Cleary (28), Holmstrom (34), Samuelsson (30), Franzen (27), Kronwall (26), Stuart (27), Maltby (34) and Draper (36). Hudler (23) and Filppula were the only young contributors.

          In 2010, Chi won their 1st Cup with Keith (26), Seabrook (25), Hossa (31), Sharp (28), Sopel (33), Campbell (31), Byfuglien (25), Boynton (31), Versteeg (24), Brower (24), Ladd (24) and Eager (24). Toews (22), Kane (21) and Bolland (23) were the only contributors under 24.

          In 2011, Bos won with Thomas (36), Krejci (24), Bergeron (25), Horton (25), Recchi (42), Chara (33), Ryder (30), Seidenberg (29), Thornton (33), Boychuk (26) and Ference (31). Lucic (22), Marchand (22) and Seguin (18) were the only young contributors and Seguin didn’t do much outside of 3 games.

          In 2012, LA won with Kopitar (24), Williams (29), Brown (26), Richards (26), Carter (26), Johnson (24), Mitchell (34), Stoll (29), Gagne (31), Penner (28), Greene (28), Scuderi (32) and Quick (25). Doughty (21) and Voynov (21) were the only contributors under 24.

          And last Chi won with a very similar group to 2010…except they were all older.

          You can win with 2-3 young players IF the rest of your core is 24+. If the Oilers stay the course that’s 4-5 years away.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I’m humbled you would go through all that work to combat my point Zarny. Maybe I should’ve mentioned before, this isn’t a discussion, you won’t deter me. I do not approve of your methods of sacrificing the future for players other teams are willing to give up on for one reason or another. Resistance is futile my friend. Adding 18 yr olds is the lifeblood of this league, and especially the Oilers desperate to regain respectability.

            All the earmarks are there for a elongated rebuild (if we have to go young, we go young). What’s already in place hasn’t had the impact they had hoped. Rebuilding from within (adding 18 yr olds) will continue for alteast another couple entry drafts. If anything, maybe you’re not putting enough future value in that 3rd selection (what they’re trying to do here). If you look at it from the prospective that every seat is sold for next season or three anyways. It makes sense. The ticket buyers fully support an extended rebuild, and making that 3rd selection. If they need more time, they need more time. It’s not as though Katz is going to fire them all.

            I win Zarny, can I do my happy dance now, sir?

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            Agreed and thanks for the work compiling the numbers. The one thing that strikes me is that based on what they’ve done to date in way of player personel moves and the way they have been talking lately, I think the Oilers Management is engaging in a “continuing rebuild” that is still 3 to 5 years from fruition. They will TALK about urgency and immediacy to keep the fan base and media happy but they are going to play it slow and steady and build on the core of youngsters.

            This summer will tell the tale. But MacT is already managing expectations by saying things like “if we have to go young, we go young”.

  • Bucknuck

    I like both Bennett and Draisaitl, but Bennetts two way play is way more important that a playmaking center, Draisaitl is more of an offensive centre.

    I’d take Bennet if he maxes out into Halls size. which is average.

  • Zarny

    Doug Gilmour v2.0 is exactly what this team needs. Someone chippy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Defensively responsible, willing to battle for space and never backs down.

  • Zarny

    @Young Oil

    What concerns me in Draisaitl’s scouting report is that his tendency when he gets the puck is to slow down. That works for a select few players in the NHL.

    If you look at the young players who are excelling over the last few years it’s guys like Hall, Duchene and MacKinnon. Crosby is the same way.

    Speed kills especially when you have the puck.

    • Young Oil

      While this is true at times, it is part of him taking in the play, and he actually chooses what to do really well (look at 1:35 in the highlight package for example). He actually has pretty good speed (not as good as Bennett’s though).

      What people are also looking over is Draisaitl’s development prior to coming to the WHL. Two seasons before coming to Canada, he put up 192 points in 29 games in his U-16 league. He was clearly not being challenged where he was playing, and that arguably took a couple years off of his development, and he has only had 2 years in the WHL to truly be challenged and develop against people his age who have his skill level. He is still growing into the player he is going to be, and learning to apply his skills to the North American game.

  • Young Oil

    Also, just one more note, I’d like people if they can to take a look at the highlight packages of Bennett and Draisaitl:

    Bennett: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svCdZiNfbvg

    Draisaitl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkR-F14cK1Y

    I may be biased, but to me Bennett uses his speed and takes advantage of poor defensive coverage to get the majority of his offense. While this is a great asset to have, it is already a lot of what the Oilers have.

    Watching the Draisaitl package, you can see that he has so much of what the Oilers are lacking. He is able to protect the puck so well, and is an incredible passer. He would pair incredibly well with Yakupov, and to me that is a major factor as well.

    There are many saying that Draisaitl is too soft, or not a big game player, but they have clearly not seen him play on a consistent basis. While he did poorly in the WJC with a poor team, he scored 45 points in his final 21 games while his team was fighting for a playoff spot. The next highest scoring forward on his team had 44 less points than him over the course of the season.

    While he is not overly physical, he can still hit when he needs to:

    and if you watch the highlight package, you can see just how incredibly well he uses his body, it is completely distinct from anyone else the Oilers are playing today.

    Let me be clear again, I would be incredibly happy if they drafted Bennett, but to me Draisaitl is the center we have wanted for over a decade.

  • Young Oil

    No matter who the Oilers choose, they are going to get a great player.

    The thing that concerns me the most about Bennett besides his frame is the PIM total. So many people look at the PIM total and say “Oh, he must be a great, gritty player”, but to me that just screams indiscipline. Sure, he is still learning the game and what he can get away with, but remember how frustrated we all were in the last 10 games or so when Perron was consistently taking stupid penalties at bad times? Then, on the other hand, a guy like Ryan O’Reilly can play a gritty, physical game all year and only get one penalty. Penalty minutes are not a good measure of good, smart physical play.

    Now, I’m sure Bennett is going to be a great, gritty player in the NHL, and I don’t mean to put him down, it’s just my opinion.

  • Zarny

    Bennett is the C I’d draft this year if the Oilers can’t trade the pick and Ekblad is off the board.

    This year’s draft is similar to 2006. No one is considered exceptional like a Crosby, Stamkos or Doughty. Erik Johnson was clearly the best D in the draft like Ekblad but took 6 years to develop. There was no clear cut best F. Staal, Toews, Backstrom, Kessel, Brassard and Okposo are all very good but all took a few years to develop.

    And when you look at the top 2 in Staal and Toews it has been everything outside their offensive game that sets them apart.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      That….and the fact that they are 6’4″ 220 and 6’2″ 209 respectively. The two bigs guys went 2nd and 3rd in that draft…..then the parade of smaller guys…Kessel, Brassard, Little….

  • Quicksilver ballet

    How do they not take this kid if he is available?

    Only Oilers management would be dumb enough to pass on a player whos biggest knock is he trys to hard.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      I’m not against drafting Bennett……but to your point…..what often happens to smaller players is that they are forced to “try too hard”….when trying to compete against larger men they get knocked around and injured. Sam Gagner is a typical example….he falls into that “tough for a little guy” category. Some will argue that he isn’t small….but he gets bounced around like a rag doll.

      The video that makes the rounds as proof that Bennett is tough actually disturbs me a little….yes he stands up to a larger guy in fighting Laughton…..but really…not so much…no real haymakers get thrown…at best it’s a draw….but we want to use it as the example of “the smaller guy standing up for himself”

      The things I like about Bennett are his truculence but more so he appears to be the best two way player of the bunch…..his +- is way better than the others. But let’s not kid ourselves that he is at best a medium size player and will suffer more injuries as a result.

      Another thing I like was mentioned earlier that some analysts rank him significantly better than Monahan.

  • vetinari

    Sounds like a good fit for the Oilers. MacT likes competitive guys willing to do anything to win, that is why they choose Nurse last year.

    I read that Corey Pronman and Brock Otten ( OHL prospects) rank him a better prospect than Sean Monahan