The South Siders
1 year ago
From the south side to prime time, Stuart Skinner, James Hamblin and Tyler Benson are now all active on the Edmonton Oilers roster, however, this is not the first time the trio have played on the same team. All three are from Edmonton, specifically the south side of the city. In their minor hockey days, they played for the South Side Athletic Club and were part of one of the best bantam teams Alberta has ever seen.
The 2012-13 SSAC U15 Lions dominated the season with a 28-4-1 record and then beat the Calgary Northstars in the provincial final. They scored a staggering 233 goals that season, 48 more than the next team: the Calgary Buffaloes.
“I think it has to do with Taylor’s coaching for sure,” said Stuart Skinner on his former U15 coach Taylor Harnett. “If we didn’t win all those games in bantam, then maybe we aren’t drafted in the positions we were, and then you never know how things work out. It all has to do with what we did together and how we persevered.”
A significant contributor to that goal tally was Tyler Benson. Benson was outstanding in bantam scoring 57 goals and 146 points in just 33 games, beating his previous totals as a first year when he scored an impressive 34 goals and 84 points. Benson broke the record for most points in a season with 146, passing former Oiler Ty Rattie, who scored 133 points in 33 games for Airdrie Xtreme. He also passed another Edmonton alumni Colton Sceviour who scored 107 points with the Red Deer Chiefs in 2004. Only Peyton Krebs, who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, has come close to breaking Benson’s record since it was set, scoring 102 in 27 games with the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
To nobody’s surprise, Benson was selected first overall by the Vancouver Giants in the WHL bantam draft following that performance…
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That season, the Lions scored tons and did not allow very many. Only 70 goals went by their goaltending partnership of Stuart Skinner and Matt Berlin, and they kept the best defensive record in the league. Before we move on to Skinner, Berlin was an emergency goaltender for the Oilers game versus the Colorado Avalanche last season. Of course, he did not play, but he does play for the University of Alberta Golden Bears and helped the Seattle Thunderbirds win a WHL championship in 2017. While Berlin was good that season for South Side, Skinner was the star in the crease. The future Oiler had a 1.75 goals-against average along with a 0.929 save percentage; however, he was even better in the playoffs improving his save percentage to 0.947. At the end of season awards, Skinner was named the Top Goaltender and finished with the best goals against average. Like Benson, Skinner was taken in the first round of the WHL bantam draft by the Lethbridge Hurricanes and became a WHL champion.
“It’s been great,” said Skinner on the SSAC reunion. “I got to talk with James [Hamblin] this morning [yesterday], and it felt like any other day. It felt normal seeing him change; it feels like its where he belongs. It is pretty cool that the three of us get to be here together.”
The final member of that team is James Hamblin. Hamblin made his NHL debut last night in the Oilers’ 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers after taking the long road to the big time. The 2013 season was Hamblin’s first year of bantam, so he did not come close to putting up 146 points as Benson did. However, he was a good depth contributor for the Lions, with eight goals and 18 points in 33 games. He came up big for them in the playoffs, scoring eight goals on their run to a championship. Hamblin became a more significant contributor the following season and was selected 17th overall by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“There must be a good system here for South Side, they must be doing something right,” joked Hamblin. “It’s really cool, we have three guys in here from South Side. I got to come up here [Edmonton] yesterday with Benny [Benson], which was cool.”
Today, the three of them are in the NHL, playing in their hometown. Unfortunately, we did not see Benson dress with Skinner and Hamblin last night; however, it won’t be long before we see the three South Siders reunite on the ice of Rogers Place.
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