KINGSTON — Oh, to be that young and earnest. Sam Bennett had just accepted a Kingston Frontenacs jersey and was bantering with the media — some of whom surely felt light at heart vicariously — when he was asked what number what he would like to sport on it.
Bennett wore No. 93 with the Toronto Marlboros for the past two seasons — the same number his general manager, Hockey Hall of Famer, Doug Gilmour, made famous with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And he says that's what he'll wear this fall in Kingston.
"Ninety-three I've always liked and I've always liked the way Doug Gilmour played," the 15-year-old native of Holland Landing, Ont., said with a smile after being taken No. 9 overall in Saturday's Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft. "He says it's cool. I'll take it.
"I had nine as my number before I moved to the Marlies," Bennett added. "But I didn't get it there so I took 93 and I liked it."
What does Gilmour think of a player honouring him? There is potential for such a gesture to be taken the wrong way — as either being a little too flashy or maybe even attempt to curry favour with the team's front office. But Gilmour said he'd rather have Bennett, who was the Marlies linemate of Erie Otters No. 1 overall choice Connor McDavid, be happy.
"Hundred per cent," Gilmour answered when asked about Bennett's digits. "When we spoke with him — we have to speak with all these kids to make sure they're going to come — I said to his dad afterwards, 'Dave, what number does he want?' He said, 'He wants your number.' I said, 'That's awesome.' "
Is that not pressure? Taking the number of your Hockey Hall of Famer GM, in his hometown no less?
"No. That's his number," Gilmour said. "I never wore it here with this team. It's part of their own identity and it's pretty special for them."
The Frontenacs had both Bennett and McKeown in their draft room at a hotel overlooking the city's historic harbour. It was no secret they were choosing McKeown, but there was some doubt whether Bennett would last until ninth. The Owen Sound Attack, who were in a 'best player available' mode, selected Huron-Perth Lakers defenceman Jacob Middleton eighth, leaving Bennett available.
"We were just crossing our fingers when Owen Sound took Middleton and he was still there for us," Gilmour said.
Five Marlboros went in the first 12 picks on Saturday. Along with McDavid (Erie) and McKeown (Kingston), centre Joshua Ho-Sang went No. 5 to Windsor and left wing Jeremiah Addison was chosen 12th by Saginaw. Bennett and McKeown, meantime, get to continue being teammates and presumably classmates; they've attend Toronto's Richview Collegiate together.
"When I heard I could be coming to Kingston with my buddy Roland, I was so stoked," Bennett said.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.