Tyler Benson’s time in the NHL has been a long time coming. The product of the Southside Athletic Club was a highly touted WHL prospect having been drafted 1st overall by the Vancouver Giants in 2013.
This, of course, came after he broke the AMBHL scoring record by scoring 57 goals and 146 points in 33 games.
And by no means was his WHL time a breeze. After a rookie season that saw him score 45 points in 62 games in 2014-15, he missed big parts of the next three years with a variety of injuries.
But the Edmonton Oilers liked what they saw from the prospect. He wasn’t the biggest body, but used his size well and put up 28 points in 30 games in his draft year.
The Oilers knew he was a project and selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft — a project is exactly what he’s turned out to be.
Post-draft he returned to captain the Giants for two more seasons before making the jump to the AHL in 2018-19. For the first time since his pre-WHL days, he played a full, injury-free season as he scored 15 goals and 66 points in 68 games with the Bakersfield Condors.
Benson didn’t see any NHL games that year, and Edmonton made him an early cut from training camp this past season. It was the right move, however, as Benson needed some more time in the American league.
In Bakersfield Benson once again took command of his club finishing second in scoring with 36 points in 47 games, nine games back from Josh Currie who led the club with 41 points.
And the reason for the short year in the AHL for Benson was in thanks to a late-January recall. The recall came when Oilers forward Joakim Nygard went down with a hand injury.
In the NHL, Benson only appeared in seven games with the Oilers scoring one assist — a beautiful flutter pass to Josh Archibald in a February 16th game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He fired five shots on net and played 10:23 per night during his NHL stint.
In all situations, Benson put up a 50.37 CF%, an even 50 GF% and an xGF% of 53.36. His most common linemates were Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald with the trio playing 42:52 minutes together posting a 43.84 CF% and a 55.45 xGF%.
There wasn’t really anything Benson did that was earth-shattering in his seven games, but you could see the talent there. He had crisp passes and the hockey IQ and strong positioning was there. He didn’t shy away from contact, either.
The biggest question about Benson and his game continues to be his footspeed. At 22 years old, he’s still years away from hitting his prime as an NHL but the need for his footspeed to increase is there.
Benson is currently in his second of three years of his RFA contract and there’s no doubt that he should be on the Oilers roster at the start of next season. To date, he’s likely done as much as he’s can in the AHL having scored 24 goals and 105 points in 120 games there.
He would be a great addition to the Oilers third line next year in a depth role as a scoring threat. He’s a big part of the Oilers future and very likely will be a top-six option for the Oilers in the next few years.
On Twitter: @zjlaing