McKenzie: Sam Bennett ‘most likely’ will return to Kingston; final decision coming this week

The Calgary Flames have no shortage of options when it comes to top-prospect Sam Bennett.

Bennett, 18, was Calgary’s first-round pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and he’s only recently been cleared for contact following labrum surgery in mid-October. While the skilled pivot lost nearly a full season of development time as a result of his ailment, he’ll at least get to play some high-level competitive hockey this spring. 

What’s unclear is whether or not he’ll be competing in the NHL, the AHL, or the OHL. The decision will reportedly be made this week, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, and the most likely outcome is that Bennett will be returned to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

Here are McKenzie’s comments on the decision facing the Flames and their timeline for making it, from Thursday night’s edition of Insider Trading:

Over the next day or two expect the Flames’ management team to get together to decide the fate of where (Bennett) is going to play the balance of the season. The expectation at this point is that he’ll be going back to Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, but that decision has not been made finally just yet.

And they want to make sure they get the input from everybody in the organization before they make that call. Could technically go to the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint, could technically play a game in the NHL, but the likely scenario is that he’s more than likely headed to junior.

That the Flames seem to want to play it safe with their most valuable prospect seems sensible.

While it would be interesting (not to mention fun!) to see what Bennett could do at the professional level, he’s 180 pounds and is coming off of major shoulder surgery. Throwing him, cold, into the mix against men a decade older than him would be playing with fire. 

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Although the safest option would be for Bennett to go straight back to the OHL, I believe the most logical place for him to start would be on a conditioning stint in the AHL. At least that way it is Flames personnel looking after him and coaching him. People forget that Poirier came from junior, had the same shoulder injury and surgery, and then stepped right into the AHL without missing a step. If poirier can do it, why can’t Bennett? He may be younger, but his skill set is undeniably better…

    • ChinookArchYYC

      Two years difference in age is rather significant when your 18 years old. You don’t have medical details on the extent of the injury so it is not correct to assume the same type of injury. Poirier is also physically larger and more developed at this stage.

      You say his skill set is “undeniably” better…how did you substantiate that? Sounds like your opinion…regardless IMO Bennett is better off in junior at this stage primarily to get his confidence and conditioning back in an environment that he is comfortable with after missing 1 year of hockey.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        I don’t need the “medical details on the extent of the injury”… A torn labrum is a torn labrum, there isn’t varying degrees like there is in an ACL sprain and the surgery would have been the exact same between poirier and Bennett. So yes, it is safe to assume the same injury. And yes poirier is physically more developed, that’s why I stated that he was older? But that I believed Sam could overcome that difference based on his grit and skill.

        I have to admit, I burst out laughing when you questioned how I could substantiate my claim that Bennett is more skilled then Poirier. Ummm, why don’t you go and take a quick look at their stats, their draft pedigree, how they project as pros, what literally ALL the experts say, etc… It’s pretty general knowledge that Bennett is a better prospect than poirier.

        Also, he hasn’t missed a year of hockey, he has missed 5 months.

        • Burnward

          Yep. We are talking about a kid rated higher than Ekblad by Central Scouting, that will be able to play managed minutes and be put in a position to succeed.

          If he can’t hang, that’s fine…but I’m willing to give him a couple games to find out. If he’s earned it in practice.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Bennett to Kingston…revives the franchise..goes to the Memorial Cup!

    Likely a fantasy, but it would be best if he gets his game conditioning, strength and fitness level up to snuff before attempting NHL games.

  • Burnward

    He needs to shake off the rust, find his hands, get his legs back. Junior, where he can dominate, is the right place. Not as a rookie in the NHL during a playoff race in the latter stages of the season.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I don’t think this is stressed enough.

      He hasn’t played in a year. He’s just barely out of rehab for a surgically repaired shoulder. He’s 18. He’s important for the future of the franchise.

      Why in the world would you want to put him right into a mid-season playoff race, against men in mid-season form who are desperate to make the playoffs or improve their playoff position and can hit (almost always shoulder to shoulder or stick to shoulder) like a truck? You wouldn’t.

      • Burnward

        Average NHL center runs around 6’0.5″, 195 lbs. Average winger, a touch bigger.

        If he’s healthy…he’s probably big enough to hang. If he’s not, don’t let him play.

        It was a muscular injury that has been rehabbed. It should have no bearing on his future injury potential if recovery was correctly done, no?

        If he’s outplaying NHL players, get him on the ice.

  • Burnward

    Send him to the OHL and then bring him up to the AHL once the Fronts are finished for the season. He gets to “ease” back into hockey playing against people the same age, get his legs back, and then move up in competition to finish out the season.

  • Kybb79

    Why are people worried about how big he is? He is still a kid lots of growing to do! Send him back to junior he has no business up here now he needs to develop! Next year he will be a Flame!

  • Burnward

    I don’t know. I’d bump Byron/Colborne up in the line-up, trade Glencross and then have Bennett take Byron/Colborne’s spot on the fourth line.

    If he’s healthy and outplaying guys in practice, let him go. To be so concerned about an injury suffered over a year ago seems to be a little silly to me. If Sam’s that fragile, we got bigger issues.

    He’s a stud.

    • Burnward

      Because Treliving was on the Fan radio show in Calgary and said they’d make a decision in the next couple days.

      McKenzie sounds smart to the East, keeps his rep. Insider without needing to be an insider when you say stuff like this and don’t actually quote the GM who said it.

      Working the listeners/readers like the smart man he is. Don’t hate the playa!

  • supra steve

    Why the reluctance on the AHL conditioning stint? I think it’s just too good an opportunity to pass up. Last season everyone was wringing their hands about Monahan, and to bad that he can’t go to the AHL to get better comp. than in the OHL while still sheltering him from the NHL.

    As for Bennett’s 180 pound frame–is that likely to change significantly before Oct 2015?

    • Rockmorton65

      This past off season, Monahan & Colbourne were put on a strict diet and exercise regimen. They both came to camp with an extra 15 lbs of muscle. I imagine Sam and Johnny will be given the same “homework” this offseason.

  • Jeremy

    2 weeks conditioning stint in AHL. If he looks good bring him up. Manage his games to only 9 the rest of the Regular Season. Playoff games don’t count against the Slide Rule. He doesn’t need to be sent down.

    If he can’t hack it in the AHL then obviously send him down.