Florida Panthers Sam Bennett and Anthony Duclair having career seasons
By Neil Becker
Make no mistake that Florida has given forwards Sam Bennett and Anthony Duclair a new lease on life.
Chances are when the average hockey fan thinks about what makes the Florida Panthers so dangerous, such names as forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Reinhart or defenceman Aaron Ekblad come to mind.
The two players who might be overlooked are former Calgary Flames 2014 4th overall pick in forward Sam Bennett along with another talented young veteran in Anthony Duclair who are both in the middle of standout seasons.
Bennett made his mark as an upcoming star during his days in the Ontario Hockey League where he showcased his blossoming talent with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs.
During his first year in Kingston, Bennett was named to the OHL’s Second All-Rookie Team after a solid campaign which saw him produce 18 goals and 40 points. Bennett managed to avoid the so-called sophomore jinx as he opened up a lot of eyes after scoring 36 goals and 91 points. This up- and- coming player received the ultimate compliment when the NHL Central Scouting Bureau in its mid- season review selected Bennett as the number one North American prospect for the upcoming 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“His puck-handling and playmaking are excellent and he has one of the best shots in this year’s draft class,” a scout from the Central Scouting Bureau said according to Bennett’s Wikapedia page.
“He has scored several goals from the high slot and coming in off the wing and has been very effective on the power play.”
Prior to earning a full- time position with the Flames, Bennett finished off his OHL career having played 128 regular season games where he scored 65 goals, 155 points while racking up 219 penalty minutes.
Calgary fans were ecstatic about drafting Bennett but unfortunately his time in Alberta was mired by a lot of highly inconsistent play. In fact, Bennett was eventually situated as a bottom six forward.
This talented forward had some standout moments in Calgary including January 13, 2016, when he made some franchise history by becoming the youngest to register a hattrick. Coincidently, Bennett had that night what was a four- goal game against the Panthers.
Bennett ended up playing 402 games with the Flames where he scored 67 goals and totalled 140 points along with 319 penalty minutes. His best season came as a rookie when he produced 18 goals along with 36 points in 77 games played.
For some reason Bennett’s play drastically improved after joining the Florida Panthers on April 12, 21021 in a blockbuster trade. After the trade Bennett went on to score six goals and 14 points in 10 games. Meanwhile this year the 24- year-old has already scored 17 goals, 25 points and 35 penalty minutes in 32 games played.
Another player who has been posting career numbers this year with the Panthers is 26- year-old Duclair. During his junior career with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Duclair’s best moment came in the 2013/14 campaign when he earned a spot on the QMJHL First Team All Star team after producing 50 goals in 59 regular season games.
Following an impressive QMJHL career which saw Duclair score 116 goals and 249 points in only 203 games, the next step was for him to establish himself as a bonified NHL star.
Duclair was drafted third round, 80th overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. The years following, he would bounce around playing for the Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators before joining the Panthers.
Last season Duclair scored a career high 23 goals in only 66 games played with the Senators. Following the season which saw him total 40 points, Duclair on December 17, 2020 signed as an unrestricted free agent a one-year $1.7 million dollar contract with the Panthers. In his first season with Florida, he would go on to produce 10 goals and 32 points in 43 games.
Showing his commitment to Florida, Duclair on July 15, 2021, agreed to a three-year extension which has worked out so far for both sides. As we head towards the season’s halfway point, he has already scored 18 goals and 33 points.
No question, the Panthers wouldn’t be battling for first overall without the steady contributions of both Bennett and Duclair.