While last season was largely disappointing for the Calgary Flames, the future appears to be bright behind a number of young, talented forwards.
19-year-old center Sean Monahan is viewed as a future leader of this Flames team, and he enjoyed a modest rookie season, totaling 22 goals and 12 assists. But Monday, at the Flames’ prospect development camp, the spotlight shone on the Flames’ other two shining stars: former Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau, and Sam Bennett, the fourth overall pick from the 2014 NHL Draft.
Playing mostly on the same line during intrasquad action on Monday, Gaudreau and Bennett displayed excellent offensive talents and explosive athleticism. The two players stood out throughout the session, according to the Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank, and each had high praise for the other.
“Unbelievable player,” Bennett said of Gaudreau. “Any chance I get to play with a player of that calibre, it’s pretty special. Unbelievable vision and he’s a smart hockey player. His skill set, it blows me away.”
“Smart on the ice — he knows where everyone’s at,” Gaudreau, who turns 21 next month, said of Bennett. “He makes plays. Great shot. Great speed. Great vision. I can see why the Flames drafted him — he’s a great hockey player. And an even better guy off the ice. You can tell he’s going to be a great teammate from the second you meet him.
“That’s the kind of guys the Flames have been drafting. It’s good to see that.”
After finishing his third year with Boston College at a pace of two points per game (36 goals, 44 assists in 40 games), the 5’7″, 150-pound Gaudreau played one game for the Flames at the end of the 2013-14 season and scored his first NHL goal. Bennett, the consensus top prospect from this year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting, put up 91 points in 57 games with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs last year.
While both these players are sure to have an impact on the Flames roster in the immediate future, new general manager Brad Treliving says to wait to heap on praise until the Flames start performing better in the upcoming regular season.
“Great to see them,” said Treliving, “but in a week’s time, it will all be forgotten. We’ll wait till training camp — that’ll be a better barometer of where everyone’s at. You get a little flavour for what guys can do in their game.
“Let’s not get too excited in the first week of July.”
The future should be bright for the Calgary Flames, although they face a steep climb as they fight their way back up the ranks of the Pacific Division. The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks should all remain playoff contenders in 2014-15, while the Vancouver Canucks could be primed for a quick turnaround after an aggressive start to the offseason by general manager Jim Benning.
Calgary had a rich history with franchise player Jarome Iginla, who is now in his twilight and chasing a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. But between Monahan, Gaudreau, and Bennett, Flames fans will have plenty to cheer for in the years ahead.
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Around the Rink Assistant Site Manager Joe Ray – @jpray_SK
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