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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 60.0: Not Rushing Leads to Success (6:30pm MT, SNW)

Tyler Benson sat in his stall slowly untying his skates. He and Kailer Yamamoto had stayed after practice to work on some drills, but also just to have some fun. They are 21 years young and living their dream playing in the NHL, and Benson didn’t need to rush getting undressed. Every moment in your early days of the NHL is incredible, and even 10 years into a career it is still a dream job. Benson, who has the stereotypical hockey player smile with his chipped front tooth, grinned widely as we spoke about adjusting to the NHL.

He looked much more comfortable in his third and fourth NHL games this past weekend than he did in his first two games a week ago. Did he feel that different, or were my eyes deceiving me?

“I felt a lot a different,” replied Benson. “Just seeing plays. I felt like I had an extra step the past two games. I felt much more comfortable out there.”

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He was very blunt in what he learned. “If you don’t move your feet, you’re dead.” He went on to say you have to be moving your feet all the time. If you stop the play goes by you. The pace of play was significantly different than what he experienced in the preseason, and while everyone tells you the game will be faster, until you experience it you don’t truly know how to handle it. We spoke at length yesterday after practice and the excitement and joy in his voice was apparent throughout our conversation.

Benson is a very cerebral player. I’ve watched him since he was 13 years old and I’ve seen his game develop from Bantam AAA, through Midget into the WHL, the AHL and now the NHL. Benson was big in Bantam. He’s almost the same size today as he was when he was 14. His consistency is what always stood out to me. He was never a flashy player in junior. Just a really hard worker who was smart with the puck, and really good on the boards.

His board play is NHL ready today. He is a bit of an oddity as he is more of a passing winger than a shooter. I think he is in the perfect position right now. Playing with veteran bottom-six linemates Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald. They are smart, quick players, who are responsible defensively. There are no unrealistic expectations on Benson to be a big point producer right now. He needs to play solid in all three zones, and chip in offensively, but not at a top-six scoring rate. The more he plays, the more he’ll learn and then I think he’d be ready for a bigger role.

Dave Tippett had a good quote about young players. “Young players, when they first get here are tentative, they don’t want to make a mistake. Then once they get playing to a point, they get past that and they just play.” I’m not sure Benson is there just yet after only four games, but with each game he will become more comfortable as the game slows down for him. In his case, he said he was seeing more plays.

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It also helps his introduction in the NHL is in the heat of a playoff race.

“Right now just playing in these games, I’m just excited to play in the NHL,” smiled Benson. “It is easy to wake up for these games right now. We are battling for playoffs and I just want to keep helping as much as I can to try and get there.”

Another huge factor is his comfort level in the locker room. Yamamoto sits directly to his left. Sam Gagner, who played a few games in Bakersfield last year, is directly to his right. Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear are a few stalls over to his right. Patrick Russell, Colby Cave, William Lagesson, Gaetan Haas and Matt Benning on a conditioning stint also spent time in Bakersfield with Benson the past two seasons. The many familiar faces has helped ease his transition to the best league in the world.

“It helps with the comfort level coming into the dressing room. Just knowing a bunch of guys and it helps getting to know the veterans. It was nice when I was able to come up to see some buddies who I’ve played the past few years with,” said Benson.

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LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Benson – Sheahan – Archibald
Gagner – Haas – Chiasson
Khaira – Cave – P. Russell

Nurse – Bear
Jones – Larsson
Lagesson – Benning

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Smith

Art Ross leader Leon Draisaitl and his linemates will likely face the Bergeron line tonight. Dave Tippett wasn’t tipping his hat when I asked about it, but I’m sure they will see them the most. Riley Sheahan’s line will likely get some shifts against them as well. Tippett has shown he isn’t afraid to use any line at any time, and with such a depleted lineup at times he will have no choice.

Caleb Jones will get a big bump in TOI tonight. He is very excited about the opportunity and confident he can handle it.

The Oilers recalled Evan Bouchard and sent Markus Granlund down. They are trying to save every dollar on their salary cap and are only carrying 12 healthy forwards and 21 skaters. Bouchard was recalled as a reward for his play in the AHL, but unless someone gets injured, or William Lagesson really struggles, I don’t see him playing. Bouchard will get a big financial bump every day he is on the roster and having him around the team in the heat of a playoff race will be good for him as well.

Bruins

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Debrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman
Bjork – Coyle – Heinen
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Chara – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Grzelcyk – Lauzon

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Rask

The Bruins are really good. They lead the NHL with 86 points. They are seventh in GF/game at 3.32 and first in the league in GA/game at 2.32. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games allowing only 13 goals.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: A massive test for a depleted lineup. Oilers battle hard but lose 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Pastrnak scores a goal and Draisaitl picks up another point.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the second period Matt Benning delivers a huge open ice hit that causes a little melee. This leads to a chippy third period.

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