Sam Bennett (Jonathan Kozub / NHLI via Getty Images)
It was mostly a game to forget for the Calgary Flames on Saturday. But for Sam Bennett, his team's 5-1 loss to Winnipeg included a moment he'll never forget.
With the playoffs ahead, most of the Calgary Flames will try to put Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets behind them.
But for 18-year-old rookie Sam Bennett, the last game of the season had two big firsts he'll want to remember.
Bennett skated in his first NHL game on Saturday and made an immediate impact, forechecking hard behind the Winnipeg net to set up a goal by Michael Ferland just 33 seconds into the game.
Bennett outskated the Jets’ defence and stripped the puck off Michael Hutchinson behind the net. Hutchinson tried to get back in goal but he couldn’t get back in position in time to stop Ferland from batting the puck in out of the air.
That was as good as it got for Bennett and the Flames, as the Jets answered back 15 seconds later with a goal of their own off the stick of Drew Stafford.
Even with the loss, the Flames should be happy with Bennett’s showing. He played 16 minutes and skated for 54 seconds on the power play in the losing effort, while registering a minus-1 and one shot on net.
The Flames never expected to wait this long to see their fourth overall pick from last year hit the ice in the NHL.
Bennett hurt his shoulder in the pre-season and missed significant time because of it. He wasn’t cleared to play until late in the season, at which point he joined the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs for 11 games. Bennett posted 11 goals and 24 points in that stretch, helping Kingston to the playoffs before his squad bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.
Bennett scored 36 goals and 91 points with Kingston in 57 games in his draft year, so it’s no stretch to believe he could have shattered those numbers if he’d been healthy in the OHL this season.
On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t have looked out of place in the NHL, either.
Bennett spent the last three games as a healthy scratch on the Flames roster, but his solid showing on Saturday may earn him some playoff time in the weeks ahead.