Matt Benning has quietly become one of my favourite Edmonton Oilers players. A third-pairing defenceman, Benning knows his job and does it very well.
This year, however, he had it tough battling some unforgiving concussion issues. He was first concussed 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.
He scored eight points in the 43 games he did play this year and had an incredible GF% of 58.97 at 5v5. He did a great job of limiting high-danger goals, too, with an HDGF% of 65 ranking seventh among all defenceman who played over 530 minutes.
Benning is a solid, young right-handed defenceman in the final year of a contract paying him $1.9-million.
Against Chicago, he should provide the Oilers great value against a really poor bottom-six forward group the Blackhawks hold and that should continue right into the playoffs, should the Oilers advance out of the play-in round. He doesn’t play on special teams and is clearly a 5v5 specialist, if that’s a thing.
His most common partner this year has been Kris Russell, and the two were able to offer up strong goal rates at 5v5 (76.92 GF%). I’d imagine those two see time together, but would prefer to see Jones and Benning together. I think their game complements each other better than that of Russel.
Nonetheless, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Benning sitting in the press boxes, too. Mike Green offers slightly better-isolated impacts over Benning. Either way, I can see the Oilers working in a rotation of the two over the course of the playoffs.
On Twitter: @zjlaing