Five reasons why Sam Bennett should stay in the NHL; five reasons why he should go back to junior

Brian Costello
Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett has been Calgary’s best player in the two NHL pre-season games he’s played. Despite that, the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft is likely headed back to the Ontario League’s Kingston Frontenacs for the bulk of the season.

Here are five reasons why he should stick with the Flames as an 18-year-old and five reasons why he’s destined to go back.

Stay. He’s quick enough and skilled enough to make an impact. In the two pre-season games – both losses to Vancouver – Bennett dazzled with his speed, moves, and creativity and assisted on Calgary’s lone goal. He generated nine shots and was pretty much the team’s lone reliable scoring threat in the two games.

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The top 10 fighters to watch this season

Brian McGrattan and Patrick Bordeleau (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you like a good scrap, you might find yourself a bit under siege lately in the hockey world. Regulations are tightening up, though the powers-that-be still maintain that organic fights, rather than staged bouts, are still part of the game. And even though enforcers such as Paul Bissonnette and Colton Orr appear to have uphill battles in returning to the NHL this season, there are still plenty of scrappers to watch. With a shout-out to hockeyfights.com as a research tool, here are the best:

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Why Kevin Hayes chose the New York Rangers

Kevin Hayes (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Kevin Hayes is one of the biggest names playing at the Traverse City prospects tournament in Michigan. Heck, he’s been one of the biggest names in hockey this summer. That’s because his senior season at Boston College was so scintillating that teams were fiending to sign him up once it became apparent he would not sign with the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks.

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Anaheim Ducks will win the Stanley Cup…in our alternate predictions

duckshappy

The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings are, in the opinion of the deep thinkers at The Hockey News, the class of the NHL. Chicago is our pick to win the Cup, while the defending champs have, by far, the best chance of preventing that from happening.

It’s a virtual two-horse race with the co-favorites, having remarkably similar pedigrees.

But what if…we’re wrong? Unlikely, we realize, but not impossible. If both clubs get eliminated from contention, which dark horse is best positioned to come from the outside and bask in the winner’s circle?

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Top 10 NHL personalities

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

More than ever, the professional sports world focuses on personality to help sell their products. In the hockey business, that’s been tougher to do thanks to a culture that discourages individualism in the name of team success. But the NHL still has a number of vibrant personas who’ll be worth keeping an eye (and an ear) on in 2014-15. Here are the top 10 hockey personalities this season:

10. Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils. The veteran winger has filled notepads and digital recorders all across North America because he’s an intelligent guy with a healthy sense of humor and good head on his shoulders, and he understands that having opinions and showing the public he’s more than a hockey automaton won’t affect his on-ice performance. Here he is on the Canadian TV comedy series “Mr. D.”:

Cammalleri deserves kudos for putting himself out there. That said, let’s have a moment of silence for that charm now that he’s signed on with the Devils, who are the Bermuda Triangle of personality.

9. Jaromir Jagr, Devils. Yes, I also can’t believe two Devils are on this list. But Jagr is still one of the game’s great characters. He’s capable of going off on a hilarious tangent at any point, but he can also speak with tremendous insight about the game and his experience playing it:

Soon enough, the 43-year-old will be retired and back in his native Czech Republic. Enjoy him while you can. Read more

Why the NHL should copy baseball’s playoff format

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Noah Graham/NHL)

If the NHL playoffs were similar in spirit to Major League Baseball’s, there’s a good chance the Los Angeles Kings wouldn’t have won the Stanley Cup in 2012. They would’ve had to play the Calgary Flames in a one-game showdown just to get into the playoffs and probably would’ve lost.

More on that later, but first to the matter at hand.

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Calgary Flames

The Hockey News
Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Colborne of the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 35-40-7

Acquisitions: Devin Setoguchi, Jonas Hiller, Mason Raymond, Deryk Engelland, Brandon Bollig

Departures: Shane O’Brien, T.J. Galiardi, Chris Butler, Joey MacDonald, Blair Jones, Mike Cammalleri

Top five fantasy options: Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Mason Raymond, Mikael Backlund

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Even though the Flames were fourth worst in the league last season, Calgary fans were patient and rallied behind the rebuild because for the first time in a decade, there’s skillful youth coming through the system.

Sean Monahan made the grade as a 19-year-old, T.J. Brodie emerged as a top-two defender and Mikael Backlund, Joe Colborne and Karri Ramo made positive strides.
Expectations are high for Johnny Gaudreau, who lit up college hockey with 80 points in 40 games to win the Hobey Baker Award, Sam Bennett, who was selected fourth overall (though he’s not guaranteed to make the team as an 18-year-old) and Tyler Wotherspoon, who has a top-seven spot on the blueline. And soon there will be Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund and Emile Poirier.

The Flames are still outmatched by most teams in all areas, but expectations are realistic. The fans know there will be another top-five pick in the pipeline a year from now.

Bust: Most prognosticators have the Flames finishing among the bottom three teams, so there’s not a lot of busting that could happen that would surprise or disappoint fans. Still, question marks remain.

What if Monahan struggles in an increased role in his sophomore season and can’t match the 22 goals he scored in 2013-14? What if the loss of proven scorers Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak dries up the offense and the young forwards spin their wheels? What if small-man Gaudreau just can’t handle the size of the NHL? What if Baertschi is another Swiss miss? What if the career seasons for Mark Giordano and Backlund in 2013-14 were aberrations?

Calgary will need a lot of standout performances if it’s going to avoid finishing in the bottom five again. But if the Flames remain among the cellar dwellers, we can’t really call that a bust. For a team with low expectations, the worst-case scenario is finishing just outside the playoffs and missing out on a prime draft position.

Bottom Line: If things go better than expected in Calgary, the Flames will miss out on one of Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin as top prospects in the 2015 draft, but still miss the playoffs. If the Flames predictably struggle, they’ll add another high pick blue-chipper to the prospect stable. Expect Calgary to grind out a lot of close games under well-liked coach Bob Hartley, keeping in mind that most of those matches will be losses.

Prospect to watch: Flames GM Brad Treliving said he’d be “shocked” if No. 4 overall pick Sam Bennett made the team out of camp, so we’ll turn our attention to Gaudreau. A super scorer with Boston College for three years, Gaudreau comes with high expectations. Flames fans would like to see him at least contend for the Calder Trophy this season and provide a glimmer of hope that Sean Monahan did last season. Gaudreau played one game for the Flames at the end of last season and scored a goal.

THN’s Prediction for 2014-15: Seventh in Pacific Division


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Contributors: Brian Costello, Rory Boylen

Calgary prospects Gaudreau and Bennett dream about the future

Ryan Kennedy
Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau on the move (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Not a lot of wins have come out of Alberta in recent years, but at least there is hope in both markets. Edmonton has toiled for years and had the more high-profile rebuild, but Calgary is quickly putting together a nice coterie of players as well.

Sean Monahan has already made a dent in the NHL and two other names are poised to join him up front on the Flames sooner than later: Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.

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