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Photo Credit: Bakersfield Condors

About Benson

Based on what people in the know say about him, I don’t think there’s a lot of doubt that Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Tyler Benson is going to be an NHL player. With a terrific rookie season playing for the Bakersfield Condors in the books, the only real question is when. Might it be this coming season?

Benson, 21, who was selected 32nd overall by the Oilers in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, is coming off a season in which he scored 15-51-66 in 68 games with the Condors, leaving him second in scoring among AHL rookies.

Bakersfield coach Jay Woodcroft has raved about Benson’s ability to pass the puck and his competitive streak. Linemate Josh Currie talks about Benson’s vision: “The plays he makes, the vision he has, you can’t teach that,” Currie said. “You’re born with that stuff, and he has it.”

If there’s a knock on the six-foot, 195-pound kid from Edmonton, scouts say it’s his skating, a weakness Benson intends to address this summer with skating coach David Pelletier. He’ll have to, because no matter what Benson showed this season, we’ve seen more than a few careers derailed between the AHL and the NHL because skating was an issue (hello, Anton Lander).

HAS A CHANCE

I think Benson has a chance of earning a roster spot with the Oilers this coming season. He certainly made a case for himself with the Condors, and, let’s face it, GM Ken Holland has plenty of holes to fill up front. That said, what the Oilers can’t do is count on Benson to earn a job. That’s a mistake we’ve seen play out countless times and it never ends well.

Benson has played 73 games as a pro — the 68 last season and five the season before. There is no need to rush him along. If he blows the doors off in training camp and pre-season and looks like a fit in a middle-six that’s wide-open, fine. Keep him. If not, don’t. You’d think that would be obvious by now, no? Apparently not.

I’ve got no beef with Staples. I just can’t get onside with him stating as fact that Benson is ready to play third-line minutes with the Oilers next season. I think Benson projects as a third-line guy down the road, but now? Next October? Maybe. Maybe not. Saying one way or another with certainty is premature. History tells us we need to see this play out.

“I think there is a lot of room for me to improve,” Benson told Mark Spector of Sportsnet. “Last summer was the first summer I was able to train in three years. That was a lot of workouts missed. There is lots of room for improvement for me.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Had Benson not been slowed by injuries during his WHL time in Vancouver, he would have been a first-round pick in 2016 — how high, I don’t know for sure. There’s no question he’s fallen behind in terms of development since draft day. He gained a big chunk of that back with the Condors last season. Given the lack of depth here, there’s a real opportunity for Benson to earn a roster spot, but he has to grab it, it cannot be gifted. We know this, or should.

As of right now, I’d rate Benson as the Edmonton’s top forward prospect, just ahead of Kailer Yamamoto and Cooper Marody, but you might see it differently. The bottom line is Benson is healthy at last and if Pelletier can coax another step out of him, we might see him this season. Emphasis on might.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • vetinari

    Rightly or wrongly, I generally expect a healthy AHL contingent of 1-3 players graduating and supplementing an NHL roster every year after they’ve mastered their craft, paid their dues and learned how to be a pro. If Benson and Jones make the NHL roster on merit, then that helps relieve some of the pressure on Holland to fill out the roster. I am also interested in seeing how Bear, Marody and Yamamoto fare at camp and hope they’re on track to help out in 2020 onwards.

  • OilCan2

    That’s a firm MAYBE. I think the Euro signings could end up in the Condors nest so that’s his internal competition. If Pelletier can get Tyler’s triple axel down cold there may be hope.

    • ed from edmonton

      I would hope that Pelletier would spend a significant amount of his time in the Bake helping out down there. If he doesn’t, that’s a problem. Why wait for a young player to crack the NHL lineup before he is given help.

  • @S_2_H

    I too would like to see the oilers over-ripen their prospects. Let’s hope that’s the case here. Would hate to see him get hurt from being rushed to the nhl and playing over his head – the last thing this kids needs is another injury to slow his development. Good luck Tyler!

    • I’m not big on the over-ripen terminology. I know that comes from Holland’s days in Detroit where he had the luxury of depth. If a prospect is ready — that means holding his own, growing and playing reasonable minutes rather than just surviving — then keep him. If he’s not, give him more AHL time.

      • Svart kaffe

        I’m not sure if Holland ever used that term himself, I believe it is made-up by the media. But regardless, Holland’s philosophy, in addition to what you mentioned, is that a prospect need to be mentally ready and confident enough that a setback doesn’t break him. A prospect should also be better than the veteran he replaces, not just equally good.

      • Fireball

        Couldn’t agree more. The idea of “over ripening” of prospects was possible because Detroit was a competitive team with a lot of depth. But then there’s the question as to exactly who he over ripened and at what age that would be. A lot of people don’t realize that players like Datz Lidstrom and Zerterburg were all still in the NHL at 21-22. They also played in men’s leagues. If you use age as the standard Benson is over ripened. Marody is 22. Gamerdella is 25 and they both had elite years in Bakers. If we are using the Over Ripening term the Oilers have lots of over ripened prospects. They have several guys that played out all their junior years.

      • @S_2_H

        Yeah I’m not married to the phrase over ripen. I guess I just mean that management better be confident a player is ready. So basically the opposite of how the oilers have repeatedly just hoped someone was ready, and kept forcing the issue when it was clear to most outsiders that said player isn’t (see: puljujarvi).

  • TKB2677

    I am not a guy who thinks Benson is automatically on the team this season nor am I a guy who has ridiculous expectations if he makes it. But what I like is FINALLY the Oilers have some prospects who look to be legit options. They have had time to get bigger and stronger and have developed their games and are actually really good players in the AHL so when camp comes along, while they still need to earn their spot, it won’t be because the team is desperate. they should be able to do it on merit. I look forward to the day when prospects like Puljujarvi don’t “earn” a spot out of team desperation and they justify it because he had 1 real good preseason game against non NHLers.

  • Dr

    Looking at the last four drafts, the Oilers have had Benson, Mcleod, and Lavoie fall to them in the second round. All three were projected to be first round picks. Add Bouchard and Broberg into the mix, and this team could have real depth. I believe we will be looking back at this four year draft period as a turning point. However, I have said that before (Omark, Paajarvi, Marincin, Gernat etc etc etc). Now, if Yamamoto and JP could contribute…..

  • Oil Vice

    I’ve been super pumped about having Benson since we drafted him. Always thought he was a steal. If I recall, the earliest projections had him going top 5 in the NHL draft as he was up for exceptional status to enter the WHL as a 14 yr old!
    His best assets might be his vision, hockey sense and leadership. He stayed heathy at the time he needed to most. Things are looking up for Tyler.
    Skating and health are the strongest limitations for most players at the NHL level so he’s not a slam dunk yet but his upside is very solid.

  • billsbills

    Work ethic and determination. With those two assets, I will believe. Especially if he recognizes the areas he needs to improve and actually works on them.

  • ed from edmonton

    We shouldn’t under value a 20 year old first year rookie achieving a PPG in the AHL. Only a handful pf players do this in any given year. No reason to think Benson will be better than at least some of the marginal forwards the Oil will have in Sept. Not a lock and he doesn’t have to clear waivers, but a better than even chance.

  • OILERSORDEATH

    From how far he’s come with all the injuries and what he did last year as a rookie with one season being healthy really has me excited to see what he can do with another year of training. From watching him last year I definitely see a player there.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    RATTIE and PulJ killed it in AHL also then they rode the pine or played 6 min a night with unproductive 3rd liners ( Reider,Lucic) . This was a huge coaching fail by MCL and Hitch.
    Benson great playmaker would have looked good with a Sniper like Rattie , oh well he’s gonna play with MacT next year and rip up the KHL .

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I think we will see when camp rolls around the Oilers will be giving some of the guys from Bakersfield serious looks in seeing how they do, I wouldnt at all be surprised to see Benson, Jones, Currie, Bear and Persson pushing hard to try and get a spot and I wouldnt be at all supersized to see some of them in the preseason trying to make an impression and if Holland moves out a couple of guys to make space, there will be a couple spots up for grabs

    • OriginalPouzar

      Don’t sleep on Willie Lagesson. I believe he’s ready and will impact the game just as much, if not more than, Jones in the next few years.

      Adam Larsson/Jason Smith level of aggressive defending (maybe not quite as mean) but better skating and puck transition skills.

      22-23 min 2LD within a few years and fan favorite.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Actually I forgot to add his name to the list, but good point, he has been pretty solid for the condors, so he could definitely have a real shot at making the Oilers and if the Oilers move Russell or Benning or both the possibility increases even more

    • The Rookie

      Jordan Eberle at 22 OA in 2008 is the last legit one. Before that
      Andrew Cogliano 25 OA 2005
      Jarret Stoll 36 OA 2002
      Hemsky 13 OA 2001
      Needless to say, with the top 10’s mostly going right to the NHL, the high end pipe line has been bare for quite a while.