Monday Mailbag – Can Tyler Benson crack the Oilers lineup?

Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
1 year ago
It’s Monday morning and that means we’re back with a brand new Mailbag to not only get your week started but also to make sense of what’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, we’re looking at Tyler Benson cracking the NHL lineup, Slater Koekkoek, Evan Bouchard, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
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) Jeff asks – What does Tyler Benson have to do to crack the Oilers lineup once and for all? Based on the current roster, do you think he has a chance to make it in October?
Robin Brownlee:
He has a chance, but he’s behind Hyman, RNH and Foegele for sure on LW and Shore as well if you play him over there. Some players known for offensive creativity in junior and in the minors can adjust to playing a different role deeper in the line-up, some can’t. I don’t know where Benson falls on that scale.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
He has to improve his speed and prove to Dave Tippett that he can kill penalties. If he’s going to be regular in the lineup, then it’ll likely be on the fourth line since the Oilers have Hyman, Foegele, and Nugent-Hopkins ahead of him. To win that job, he might have to beat out a guy like Devin Shore, so showing that he can be trusted both at even-strength and on the PK will go a long way in him making this team.
I think Benson will have to make sure he’s ready to do things like contributing to the PK if he’s going to make the Oilers, and I know that’s something he’s been working on in Bakersfield. Can he do it? It won’t be easy, he’ll have to bump a guy like Devin Shore out of a job, but it’s definitely doable.
Slater Koekkoek
2) Curtis asks – Now that Slater Koekkoek is signed, how do you see the depth chart looking on the left side on defence? Would you guess Koekkoek plays over Russell? Could Broberg sneak in there?
Robin Brownlee:
It’ll be Nurse, Keith and Russell. Koekkoek can spell off Russell and vice-versa. Broberg? Where is he going to play? Who comes out? Not this year.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Tippett had Koekoek in his lineup in the playoffs and I would imagine that he is listed ahead of Russell on their depth chart to start this season. Broberg could maybe sneak in there if the Oilers have some injury issues, but I can’t see him making the team out of camp. Some time in Bakersfield would be good for him.
I think Koekkoek and Russell will split the time as the 3LHD for the most part, but we’ll have to see what happens. Koekkoek would probably be the better puck mover, but I can also see Tippett wanting to strap the cowboy to Evan Bouchard early on.
May 4, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) handles the puck against the Vancouver Canucks in the third period at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
3) @eakins_hair asks – After Bouchard barely played last season, how worried are you that the lack of playing time affected Evan’s development and may have set him back for this season? Are you concerned with where Bouchard slots in and how much ice team he will see with Tippett’s preference to go to the veterans?
Robin Brownlee:
Not worried at all. He’s 21. He’ll start in the third pairing and have a chance to move up alongside Keith if all goes well.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I don’t agree with the idea that he barely played last season. He played 23 games in Sweden before the NHL season started and he appeared in 14 games with the Oilers. Plus, he was practicing against NHL calibre players all season. He’ll be fine and Tippett really doesn’t have much of an option other than to play him considering how the right side of their blueline currently looks.
Bouchard is still super young and has plenty of talent to help him make the adjustment. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bouchard has moved his way up the depth chart by the time the season wraps.
May 10, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save in front of Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan McLeod (71) during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
4) @MarkPoseyAuthor asks – Do you think it would be a good idea for the Oilers to at least try the line of McLeod with Benson and Marody? That line had such great chemistry for the Condors last season.
Robin Brownlee:
No. I think it would be a bad idea. What lines would they play ahead of? McLeod is the only member of that trio with a shot to play with the top nine forwards. At best, two of the three make the opening night roster. I don’t see a place for Marody.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I would be intrigued with it and I would imagine that Tippett gives that trio a look in the preseason to see what they can do. They dominated the AHL and clearly know how to play together. It’s not a lock that their success would translate directly to the NHL level, but it’s worth giving it a shot in my opinion.
It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen because of how heavily Dave Tippett usually leans on his veteran guys. I think McLeod will be with the Oilers and maybe Benson, but all three? Seems unlikely even I would like to see how it played out.
Apr 10, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (28) and Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) faces off for the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome.
5) Calvin asks – What is your way too early prediction for how the Pacific Division shakes out? Which teams do you like and which ones will struggle?
Robin Brownlee:
I like the Oilers and Golden Knights to be 1-2 in the division. I see Calgary next and then a jumble of teams after that, likely topped by Vancouver. Not sure what to expect from Seattle. Anaheim is in rebuild mode.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
The Oilers and Golden Knights are the top two teams in my opinion, then the middle tier includes Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle, and LA. Those are the teams that I believe will be in the mix for a playoff spot. Anaheim and San Jose likely won’t factor into the playoff picture. The Kings have a chance to surprise a lot of people this season. I really liked what they did this summer. On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of what Vegas did/didn’t do over the last month. Their centre depth is sketchy and they won’t have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
I think Vegas is probably the favourite to win the division, but I also believe the Oilers will be in the mix to challenge for that spot. The third playoff spot will either go to Calgary or Vancouver. I really have no idea what to expect from Seattle in their inaugural season, but after doubting Vegas all the way to the Stanley Cup, I’ll just go ahead and keep my mouth shut on this one.


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