Sam Bennett isn't accustomed to being last in anything. First among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final 2014 draft rankings, the Kingston Frontenacs centre finished dead-last in one category during Saturday's fitness testing at the annual combine. Bennett couldn't do a single pull-up. "I was definitely disappointed with myself," Bennett said. "I was wanting to do the best I can in every test. But, I guess, ultimately games aren't won or lost if you can do a pull-up in the gym." Bennett likely won't take much of a hit from being 12 pull-ups behind the leaders. If anything, his showing could help whichever team takes him early in the first round June 27 in Philadelphia. "The fact that he can play the game the way he plays the game, I think the teams feel that he's a pretty complete package," NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr said. "This is what the whole combine's about: The team that's going to get Sam Bennett knows what work lies ahead and they'll be able to put him on the proper path for development." Bennett finished ahead of Barrie defenceman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay centre Sam Reinhart and two other potential top picks, Prince Albert winger Leon Draisaitl and Oshawa winger Michael Dal Colle because of what he developed into on the ice. With his father's favourite player, Doug Gilmour, overseeing his progress as Kingston's general manager, the Holland Landing, Ont., native had 36 goals and 55 assists in 57 OHL games this past season. But just like with pull-ups, Bennett doesn't want to be defined by numbers alone. "I think (what sets me apart) really just a combination of my hockey sense along with my compete level," he said. "I think I compete as hard, if not harder, than anyone else." Bennett isn't the only one trying to compete to go first overall, or in the top five, the first round or in the draft, period. Over a hundred fellow prospects joined him at this week's combine with the aim of impressing NHL teams. Well before the physical grind that was Saturday's fitness testing, players gathered outside of Toronto to meet with NHL teams. Marr likened the entire process to a giant conveyor belt as these teenagers went through the mental trials of often answering the same questions over and over. Most don't mind it. Top European skater Kasperi Kapanen — son of former NHL forward Sami — called it "natural" to sit around and talk to people, and Draisaitl didn't want to downplay the week, either.
No pull-ups, no problem for top NHL draft prospect Sam Bennett
Winnipeg Free Press | Jun 1