One week ago, the Oilers recalled Kailer Yamamoto from the Bakersfield Condors to inject some new life into their lineup. The 2017 first-round has made good on his opportunity, producing two points in three games with the big club while also playing an impressive two-way game.
Yamamoto has spent the last two games on the right wing of the team’s second line alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Dave Tippett’s goal here is to spread the offence around the lineup by splitting up Draisaitl and Connor McDavid and Yamamoto has the skill and hockey sense to thrive in that situation.
But by doing so, Tippett has left McDavid without an elite winger. Of course, if there’s any player who can make it happen himself, it’s Connor McDavid. That said, he simply doesn’t have the same support with James Neal on his wing, who hasn’t produced much at five-on-five, on his left wing. While Neal has given a major boost to Edmonton’s powerplay, he and McDavid have just three goals in 132:24 of even-strength ice-time together this year.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SUNDAY EDITION question. With Yamamoto faring well since his call-up, should the Oilers again reach into their farm system and call up another top prospect? Is it time for Tyler Benson, Bakersfield’s leading scorer, to get a shot at the NHL level?
Benson has spent the year building on what was an excellent professional rookie season. He scored 15 goals and 66 points in 68 games last year and he has eight goals and 27 points in 32 games this year. His strength has been his play-making and his work in the offensive zone, while it’s been said that his footspeed could use some more work. But with the Oilers looking for help on the wings, it might be time to see what Benson can do.
Ken Holland already waived Markus Granlund for not producing offensively. Other players who aren’t producing could be on the chopping block in the near future given the way Benson is performing in the AHL.
If the Oilers decide to keep Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yamamoto together as a line, Benson could slide in alongside McDavid and Kassian on the top line. That would slide Neal down the lineup into a more sheltered five-on-five role, possibly with Gaetan Haas and Alex Chiasson on the third line.
Of course, while inserting Benson into the lineup makes sense in theory, there’s also an argument to be made that he’s best suited being brought along slowly in the AHL. For so many years the Oilers threw prospects into the deep end well before they were ready and it wrecked their confidence. They’re finally taking a more conservative approach with their prospects, letting them learn the ins and outs of the professional game in a lower-pressure environment.
What say you, Nation? Could Benson make the Oilers better right now? Would it be good for his long-term development to get a cup of coffee at the NHL level? Or should the Oilers continue to take his development slowly?