In the wake of an injury to Joakim Nygard, the Oilers finally recalled Tyler Benson, one of the organization’s most promising prospects. With over 100 points at the AHL level, Benson had been knocking hard at the door demanding an opportunity to show what he could do at the NHL level.
But in two games since being recalled, Benson has yet to be inserted into the lineup. The first game on Friday night against St. Louis made sense as Benson had endured a long day of travel to reach Edmonton and join the team. The next night in Calgary, though, fans were surprised to see Benson yet again watching from the press box.
As badly as we all want to see Benson get into the lineup, there’s merit to taking things slowly with an important prospect. There’s value to be gained from watching a couple of games from the press box and getting acclimatized around the team before getting on the ice. Giving Benson his debut in a back-to-back against the defending Stanley Cup champions and in a heated Battle of Alberta would have been throwing him into the deep end.
Now that this whirlwind weekend is finished, it’s time to get Benson into the action. That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday MONDAY EDITION question. Where would you put Tyler Benson in the lineup?
The first option is playing him in Nygard’s spot on the third line with Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald. This group has been a tremendously effective checking line for the Oilers so far this season. Benson’s profile is more of an offensive player, so he doesn’t perfectly gel with Dave Tippett’s idea of a checking third line.
That said, he could also bring an added dimension of offence to the line, making it more multi-dimensional. When Archibald is moved up the lineup to replace James Neal on the top line, we often see Sam Gagner slot in on the third line. Gagner can hack it in a checking role, but the biggest thing he brings to that line is some skill in the offensive zone.
The other option is putting him on the top line alongside Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian. Neal is currently day-to-day with a foot injury, but, even when healthy, he’s been struggling to produce at even strength. McDavid could use some help on the top line and perhaps Benson and his playmaking skills and excellent vision could be the one to provide it.
The issue here is that McDavid also attracts the other team’s top defenders and shut down players. It would be a big challenge for Benson to jump into his NHL career facing top competition, even though he would get the added boost of playing with the game’s best player.
Kailer Yamamoto has had a massive impact on the Oilers’ top-six since being recalled back in December. Playing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Yamamoto was the missing piece to giving the Oilers an elite second line. Now the team needs some help on the top line. Can Benson be that guy? What say you, Nation?