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Monday Mailbag – First impressions for Tyler Benson

Hello, hello! Welcome, dear citizens, to another edition of the Monday Mailbag where I’ve taken your questions and turned them into a little bit of free learnin’ to start off your week. This week, we looked at Tyler Benson’s brief call-up, Jujhar Khaira’s recent play, Connor McDavid, and a whole lot more! If you want in on next week’s mailbag, just fire me an email at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, I encourage you to sit back, relax, and waste a few minutes of company time. Have a good week, everybody.

Feb 6, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Benson (49) and San Jose Sharks forward Alex True (70) look for loose puck during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Cliff asks – By the time this gets posted, Tyler Benson will have played a game or two for the Oilers and I’m curious to know what everyone’s first impressions are despite the tiny sample size?

Robin Brownlee:

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Benson was only OK. Getting the nerves under control in the first game looked like an issue. Then, less time against Nashville. It takes a while to see what a player can do because they tend to try to play safe and not make mistakes rather than play their game when they first get called up. With that out of the way, he’ll likely show us more the next time he gets called up.

Jason Gregor:

It was only two games and less than 20 minutes of icetime. He is a smart player. He made some good plays with the puck that led to some scoring chances against San Jose. Rarely out of position. I suspect he will work on lengthening his stride a bit. Something many players do.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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It’s a very small sample size but what I’ve seen lines up with the scouting reports. He’s smart and always seems to be in the right spot, but he doesn’t skate very well. If he can work on his foot speed over the summer, then the Oilers will have a really good player.

Christian Pagnani:

I like what I saw. I didn’t think he skating was as concerning as people have made it out to be.

Baggedmilk:

I thought he was fine based on the 15 total minutes he played over two games, but clearly the team thinks he needs some more seasoning as he was returned to Bakersfield yesterday morning. He’s still a young kid and there’s plenty of time for him to develop into an NHL regular so I won’t put too much stock into his first NHL recall.

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2) Sara asks – What does Jujhar Khaira need to do to get his game back in order? He hasn’t seemed like the same player since November and I’m wondering if anyone else feels as though he’s on thin ice right now?

Robin Brownlee:

This has been asked multiple times this season, which goes to show how inconsistent he’s been. Needs to move his feet and use his size. He just doesn’t give you the same level of competitiveness from game to game. He is on thin ice and he’s put himself there.

Jason Gregor:

He needs to be more consistently engaged in the game. He has been good on the PK, and I think that helps him stay in the lineup. His puck handling seems too deliberate right now, and it takes too long to make plays and that leads to not getting the puck out. More urgency in his game is needed, and if he doesn’t find it he could be scratched more often like he was prior to the All Star break.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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He just has to find a sense of urgency and he needs to start moving his feet. When he skates hard and finishes his checks, the scoring chances start to follow. He just doesn’t seem to have the drive or ability to consistently do that and it’s disappointing because there is some serious potential with him. It’s getting to the point where I’m not sure if he’ll ever figure it out.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think some time in Bakersfield would hurt. He’s not the player he can be and he’s been one of the weaker players on the team so I’d say he’s definitely on thin ice.

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Baggedmilk:

I’ve been saying this since November but he needs to bring back the moustache. As soon as he shaved the stache his play trailed off and I think there’s something to this. Anybody else agree with me? Of course you do.

3) Joseph asks – Assuming we’ve all see Whatever It Takes about Connor McDavid’s return, what did everything think about a) the way the Oilers kept things quiet and b) how much work McDavid put in to get back in time for the season?

Robin Brownlee:

Teams go to great lengths to control the message now. I don’t particularly like it, but that’s their call. Everything that can be said about McDavid’s recovery has been said. His commitment level is off the charts. He really is something special in that regard.

Jason Gregor:

I was told by a few different Canadian medical professionals it is rare a player has surgery on PCL, so not having surgery wasn’t that outside the norm. McDavid is an extremely driven person, so it didn’t surprise me to see how hard he worked to get back in shape. He worked extremely hard, but that’s why he is the greatest player in the world. He also had a summer of rehab, so he isn’t as strong as he’d like to be. I think next season he will go to another level after a summer of training, not rehab training.

We were told it was a PCL injury at the press conference in the summer, so that wasn’t a secret. Grant Fedoruck from Leading Edge Physio was on our show in the summer and he said if it was a PCL, then the other damage they listed was also very plausible. I’m fine that they didn’t divulge every aspect of his injury, as the PCL was the biggest one. Someone made money off of the documentary I sense so that’s why it was made. My only question is what if he would have put in all that work, but then he didn’t come back in time. Would they still have released it?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I understand why they kept things quiet but I will admit, and you will roll your eyes at this, it might have ruined some trust with the media. That relationship is important for the team and we’ll see if this changes some things. As for McDavid, it was incredible to watch. There’s no denying that he is special and this cemented how badly he wants to win a Stanley Cup in Edmonton.

Christian Pagnani:

Terrifying, for one. Not even just from an Oilers perspective, but just from a hockey and human perspective. Having someone that good having a potential career-altering injury is brutal. I’m still not even sure how he’s at the level he is currently at. I’m not surprised the Oilers kept it quiet. There’s not much to win by putting out all these possibilities to the public. McDavid isn’t human, that much is for sure.

Baggedmilk:

Finding out how serious this injury actually was felt like getting squared up and kicked in the pills. As much as I’m annoyed that the Oilers lied about the severity of Connor’s injury, I totally get why they did it. Snitches get stitches — I get it.

4) Darren asks – Hey guys wondering why there is so much concern about the Oilers giving up a 1st round pick when they have a seasoned one already in their system. Am I missing something when I say that Jesse Puljujarvi is a legitimate 1st round pick? He has size, skill and has proven that he can play at the professional level posting 41 points in 42 games this season for Karpat. If you were a GM wouldn’t he be a safer bet than a raw rookie out of the draft?

Robin Brownlee:

You’d think so, but Karpat is not New York or Chicago or San Jose. Also, fair or not, teams see red flags when an agent and a player who has proven as little as Puljujarvi has starts making demands and dictating where they will play. At the bottom line, Jesse still hasn’t shown much at the NHL level.

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Jason Gregor:

The Oilers don’t have a lot of forward depth in the organization. Giving up a first round pick for a rental, when the Oilers aren’t expected to be a Cup contender, would be a massive risk. If Holland could acquire a younger player, 23-25 years old, with a few years on his contract then I could see the first pick being in play. But giving up a first this year for a rental would be premature in my eyes. In a few years it could be a different story.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It all depends on how another GM feels about Puljujarvi. If they think he doesn’t have a future as a top-six winger, then they would rather take a chance on their scouting department identifying a better player in the upcoming draft. Players aren’t valued the same by every organization. If you find a team that is really high on Puljujarvi, he might be worth more than their first-round pick.

Christian Pagnani:

His season in Finland shows the book isn’t closed on him as an NHL player. A point-per-game in a professional league is very good almost anywhere. Puljujarvi’s just 21-years old too and he’ll be turning 22 in May. That’s not old enough where you can write off his performance overseas. But that also makes his season not as impressive had he been 18-20. I’d say he’s a safer bet, but with a lower ceiling.

Baggedmilk:

Puljujarvi is having a great season in Finland right now and if he’s dead set on never playing for the Oilers again then I hope it continues to try and pump up his trade value. Obviously, dominating the Finnish league isn’t the same as doing it in the NHL but it does have me believing that another team will want to take a flyer on the former fourth overall pick.

Jan 31, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) takes a shot and scores a goal against St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen (34) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Andrew asks – For the 2014 NHL draft, I remember being so adamant that the Oilers should take Sam Bennett over Leon. Boy was I dumb as we know how that turned out. What is your draft pick story that you look back on with embarrassment?

Robin Brownlee:

Wouldn’t call it embarrassing, but I was sure in the final two days leading to the 2010 Entry Draft draft the Oilers were leaning toward taking Tyler Seguin over Taylor Hall based on conversations I’d had with people in hockey ops. I’d written accordingly. Not the first time by a long shot I’d been wrong, but I was surprised because I’d talked to a lot of people with input on the decision.

Jason Gregor:

I was really high on Gilbert Brule. I thought he was going to be a really good NHL player.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

This is a great question. Like most, I thought the Blue Jackets were morons for taking Pierre Luc-Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi. I also thought that the Ottawa Senators were making a big mistake passing on Filip Zadina and taking Brady Tkachuk. I was also very wrong on that. Everyone’s wrong sometimes — what can ya do?

Christian Pagnani:

I thought the Oilers should have taken Bennett over Draisaitl back then as well. I also wanted Ryan Murray over Nail Yakupov in 2012, though that one looks more reasonable.

Baggedmilk:

Oh man, a bunch. I desperately wanted Yakupov. Oops. I was happy about Alex Plante. I cheered loud as hell when Puljujarvi slid to fourth. Basically, what I’m saying is that I’ve learned how little I know so I’m just going to go ahead and hope the scouts know what they’re doing because I sure as hell do not.

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