Matt Benning has had far from an easy go to stake his claim as regular NHL’er.
The 6th-round pick taken by the Boston Bruins never was signed by the club as he developed his game at Northeastern University. But when his time in the NCAA was coming to a close, a familiar face gave him a call.
Then Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, who drafted Benning in Boston, signed the St. Albert native and former Spruce Grove Saints stalwart to an entry-level deal. He came to Edmonton and made his impact felt scoring 15 points in 62 games in his rookie year.
Benning has taken some time to develop, however, as his defensive prowess and two-way play began to show. He’s become far from a fan favourite as a common scapegoat as a third-pairing defenceman.
And this past season, just as he seemed to gain the most footing as a third-pairing defenceman, he ran into concussion problems. He was first concussion on November 19th in a game against the San Jose Sharks playing only 2:55 before he left the game.
His return to the Oilers lineup came December 1st against the Vancouver Canucks, but it didn’t last long. Only 9:44 of time on ice, Benning was forced to leave the game as his concussion symptoms returned. A month and a half later, he finally got back into the lineup on January 29th.
Benning struggled to gain a solid foothold once again in the lineup playing only 12:30 minutes a night.
Overall this year he saw a dip in his TOI from his career average of 15:45 down to 13:14. His overall raw numbers, too, saw a drop. He scored eight points in 43 games, a 15 points per 82 game pace, which would’ve been the lowest total since his rookie season. But with all the time he missed, it’s hard to not see a correlation in that production dip.
The good news, however, is that Benning continued to offer modest underlying numbers. At 5v5, he posted a 48.23 CF%, a GF% of 58.97 (!), and an xGF% of 49.62.
While not tremendous, he’s shown his ability to play a strong defensive game for the Oilers. He does a great job of limiting high-danger goals with a goal rate of 65% in that area at 5v5. That number ranks 7th amongst all defencemen this season who have played over 530 minutes.
On top of that, according to hockeyviz.com, Benning provides defence at a six percent better rate than that of the league average. Offensively, he provides eight percent worse offence. On the penalty kill, his defence rate is 12 percent better than league average — a tremendous number that shows his value.
I’m a firm believer in Matt Benning and his ability as a third-paring, right-shot rearguard. He’s currently in the final year of a two-year, $1.9-million deal and is an RFA this year.
Edmonton needs to sign him to a new deal and I think the Oilers will do just that. I wrote about Benning and a potential new deal in January where I suggested the 25-year-old could be signed to a multi-year deal paying him in the $2.5-million range.
I think given what’s happened this past season and the Oilers need to sign many players, I would like to see a new deal for Benning coming in around the $2-million mark.
On Twitter: @zjlaing