Tyler Benson: Down the Road
Photo credit:© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
Seeing Tyler Benson become an NHL player with the Edmonton Oilers would have been a wonderful local kid makes good story around here, but the next chapter in Benson’s career will instead come with the Henderson Silver Knights, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. Benson signed with them Monday.
Benson, now 25, is yet another example that the path to the NHL is often a long and winding road, even for an unquestionably talented prospect. Benson was selected 32nd overall by the Oilers from the Vancouver Giants in the 2016 Entry Draft after he’d spent parts of five WHL seasons with Vancouver.
The Giants took Benson first overall in the WHL Bantam Draft after he put up an Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League record of 146 points in 33 games with the Southside Athletic Club. Never fleet of foot to begin with, Benson was slowed by a hip injury and a hernia coming out of the Dub on the way to turning pro with the Oilers AHL farm in Bakersfield.
Benson’s first look with the Oilers came by way of a seven-game stint in 2019-20. His next shot and best shot came in 2021-22 when he got into 29 games. He produced 1-1-2 playing limited minutes in the bottom six. For all intents and purposes, that’s when Benson made the transition from prospect to suspect. His final look-see with the Oilers came in two games last season. He played another 43 with Bakersfield, scoring 5-8-13.
YOU NEVER KNOW
Dec 3, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Benson (16) battles with Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans (71) in front of goaltender Jake Allen (34) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The challenge for a lot of prospects breaking into pro is finding a way to adjust and change their game when they don’t put up the kind of numbers they did as juniors. Can they become more complete players? Do they have the grit and physicality to play in the bottom six? I’ve seen a lot of players with better numbers than Benson put up in Vancouver make that transition — guys like Dean Evason and Stu Barnes come to mind.
I never considered Benson an elite offensive player, but I never saw him play at SSAC or Vancouver. It didn’t help that Benson wasn’t particularly quick. Then again, neither was Rob Brown, who had 212 points with the Kamloops Blazers in 1986-87 and put up 115 points playing alongside Mario Lemieux with Pittsburgh in 1988-89 before re-inventing himself as a two-way player. Truth is, I didn’t know what to make of Benson.
“Personally, I feel I have the ability and the game that are NHL ready now,” Benson said a year ago after signing a one-year deal for $750,000. “I have the confidence, just from the seven games a couple years ago. I think if I can play with confidence on the ice that I can be a full-time player. Mentally, I wasn’t as strong as I am now, knowing that I can play with those players and at that level.”
It obviously didn’t play out that way, so here we are. Benson, like Kailer Yamamoto, Jesse Puljujarvi, and countless other players of varying draft pedigree over the decades, will have to make a go of it someplace else and get a second opinion after they couldn’t find a way to stick with the team that drafted them.
You wish them well and watch from afar.
TYLER BENSON’S PRO CAREER SO FAR
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