The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 28 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 2 today.
Sam Bennet was number 1 overall during Central Scouting's mid-season rankings back in January. His quick hands, ability to use his speed to create chances in transition, and a killer snap shot all have one particular scout project him as a number one center, and at worst, a solid number two center. Sure, Sam Reinhart is a little bit taller and thicker, but the ability to play in all three zones is what the Sabres covet the most.
Bennett, a Toronto native, is listed at 6'1", 178 pounds, and a left-handed shot. In his last season with the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario League, he potted 36 goals and 55 assists for a total of 91 points in 57 games played.
"There are guys who elevate their game when it matters most, and you’re looking to project which players will do that consistently at the next level," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The guys we have at the top all are in that mold, but when we look at Sam Bennett we see a guy who could potentially have a Jonathan Toews type of career."
The Buffalo Sabres are in full rebuild mode after trading away their captain(s) Jason Pominville at the 2013 trade deadline, Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders, and Steve Ott to St. Louis during the 2013-14 regular season. And that's not even mentioning them trading the only player left even worth a damn, US Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller. By doing so, the Sabres have been able to amass numerous draft picks in the next few years, and after a season in which they were the worst team in the league, they just missed out on holding on to the number 1 overall pick to Florida in the draft lottery.
An NHL team can never be too deep at the center position, but the Sabres just might be. They have a lot of young prospects like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Daniel Catenacci ready to make the jump or have made the jump to the NHL. But the number one prospect according to Central Scouting is just too good to pass up.
How the Wild could use him
Bennett's ability to create his own shot, yet still has playmaking ability to him can only help a team like the Wild. He has won gold medals in both the U18 World Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for Canada. The kid shows up in big games and the Wild can always use more guys that elevate their games when the stakes are raised. He likely won't fall to 18, but if he were, the Wild would be crazy not to pick him without hesitation.