Joining the Florida Panthers a few days after the Trade Deadline officially ended, Sam Bennett has turned things around for himself. Originally a fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Bennett hasn’t necessarily lived up to his draft position. While Bennett adds some intangibles that few players do, looking back at his draft position may make you wonder. After seven seasons in Calgary, Sam has been traded to the Panthers, where he is playing well above expected.
Change of Scenery Benefits Sam Bennett
Starting the season off with the Flames, Bennett has struggled mightily compared to seasons past. At the same time, it’s hard to get anything going changing your head coach five times since that 2014 draft. Those first 38 games in Calgary were lower than usual. Playing for the Flames this season, Bennett recorded just 12 total points. With four goals, eight assists, and 19 penalty minutes. If you didn’t know who Bennett truly was or how he played, he would sound like a bottom-six role player. Yet, he is so much more than that.
Since joining the Panthers, Bennett looks like he’s been a part of this team since day one. Scoring five points in his first four games with the team. Bennett isn’t just producing, but he is also protecting the boys around him. During his debut for the ‘Cats’ against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bennett recorded two assists. In his second game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he had one goal and 17 minutes worth of penalties. Playing his game to a tee, Bennett received those penalty minutes when he stuck up for linemate Anthony Duclair after a high hit from Blue Jackets Gavin Bayreuther.
With the addition of Sam Bennett, the Florida Panthers become even harder to play against. Once the team’s biggest issue, that has not disappeared thanks to guys like Bennett. As the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around, that is where Bennett will shine brightest. During 30 playoff games, Bennetts 11 goals and eight assists adding 107 hits on top of that. Known for being even better during the playoffs, Bennett is the perfect addition for a deep playoff run.
Bennett Soldifies Second Line
With the addition of Bennett, the Panthers have a solid top-six forward group when fully healthy. Coach Quenneville has seemed to find the perfect fit for Bennett. Placing Sam in between Jonathan Huberdeau and Duclair, this line can come at you from all angles.
Positioning Bennett at that second-line centre spot gives the Panthers second line some of that needed aggression. While Huberdeau can have a bit of a short fuse from time to time, neither he nor Duclair plays an aggressive, grinding style that Bennett provides. Before he left Calgary, Bennett was third on the team in hits with 97. While his production was down, his true grinder style has never changed. Now that he is with Florida, he will create many opportunities for both Huberdeau and Duclair. Much like what Mason Marchment does when he plays with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.
Using his size and grit, Bennett will grind down the opposition in front of him. Forcing the other team’s defenseman to make mistakes and create turnovers will translate to more offensive chances for his linemates. Huberdeau is a wizard with the puck. You legitimately never know what he is going to do with it. While on the other hand, Duclair has a cannon of a shot. Combine all three of their high hockey IQ with their speed and high skillsets, the puck has no choice but to end up in the back of the net.