WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Oilers have won the NHL draft lottery and now have the opportunity to select Connor McDavid at the draft this June.
CALGARY – Calgary Flames rookie forward Sam Bennett is as surprised as everyone else that he could face friend and longtime teammate Connor McDavid in the Battle of Alberta next season.
With an 11.5 per cent chance of winning this year’s NHL draft lottery to get the No. 1 pick in June, the Edmonton Oilers hit the jackpot Saturday for the right to choose first for the fourth time in six years.
WATCH: Oilers fans react to Edmonton winning NHL draft lottery
Bennett and McDavid were minor hockey teammates for seven years — five with the York-Simcoe Express and then two with the Toronto Marlboros. They also won gold for Canada at the world under-18 men’s hockey championship in 2013.
“We’re more used to being teammates than opponents for sure,” Bennett said Sunday.
“We’ve been friends for a very long time. I’ve played against him a few times, but definitely that’ll be an exciting bunch of years playing against him. That’ll be really cool.”
Bennett was the highest draft pick in Calgary Flames history last year when he was taken fourth overall. McDavid is the overwhelming No. 1 prospect for the entry draft June 26-27 in Sunrise, Fla.
“He is the next great thing and he deserves all the hype he’s been getting because he definitely is that good,” Bennett said.
McDavid finished third in Ontario Hockey League scoring with 44 goals and 76 assists in just 47 games. Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said there was “zero” chance of trading the top pick.
Bennett versus McDavid would add spice to the Battle of Alberta. Bennett estimates he played against McDavid about four times in the OHL as McDavid’s Erie Otters and Bennett’s Kingston Frontenacs are in different conferences.
Bennett says he texted McDavid in Toronto as the coveted prospect awaited the results of Saturday’s draft lottery aired live on television.
“I was asking him how nervous he was and he told me he was pretty nervous,” Bennett said.
The 18-year-olds’ birthdays are just over seven months apart. Bennett says their parents’ homes are 10-minute drive from each other in Newmarket, Ont.
Bennett underwent shoulder surgery in October. He rejoined the Frontenacs for their final 11 games of the regular season and four playoff games this spring.
The six-foot-one, 184-pound forward made an impression his first week in the NHL. Bennett recorded an assist in his NHL debut, which was Calgary’s last game of the regular season in Winnipeg.
Bennett brought his skill and sandpaper to the first two games of Calgary’s first-round playoff series in Vancouver. He was anticipating playing his first NHL playoff game at Scotiabank Saddledome in Sunday’s Game 3.
But it was just a year ago that it was Bennett feeling the weight of suspense at the draft lottery. He could identify with McDavid’s feelings to a point.
“He’s in a little different position,” Bennett said. “He’s pretty clear-cut the first pick. There was a lot undecided last year. It’s definitely an exciting and nervous time for him. There’s really not much he can do but wait and watch.”