Tyler Benson was born on March 15, 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta. He grew up playing minor hockey in Alberta with the South Side Athletic Club, where he excelled. During his 2012–13 season he established a new scoring record with 146 points in 33 games, surpassing the previous mark of 131 points held by Ty Rattie.
He was touted as one of the best prospects in the 2016 draft – at one point during his bantam season, some experts considered Benson to be the top pick in the 2016 draft. Due to his record-breaking bantam season, Benson was a no-brainer first-overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft by the Vancouver Giants. He struggled as a 15-year-old in the WHL, as expected with most 15-year-olds, going scoreless in seven games.
Cue his 16-year-old season. While expectations rise, it is still worth noting that 16-year-olds also routinely struggle in the WHL. Benson was the exception to that rule as he had a respectable season, with 14 goals and 31 assists, earning a spot on Canada’s U17 team. His career trajectory changed course in the 2015-16 season due to injury. Benson, who was once touted as being a top pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his tailbone, followed by an inflamed pubic bone in the middle of the season – he only played two games after Jan. 1 in his draft season.
Draft and First Professional Season
As mentioned prior, Benson is an Edmonton native so it was fitting that the Oilers took the chance on the young superstar with their 32nd overall pick in the second round. A value pick for a player who was once mock drafted as high as seventh overall. He spent two more seasons with the Giants, continuing as their captain.
Benson played 33 games in 2016-17 as injuries once again got the better of him. He finished his junior career in 2017-18 with 69 points in 58 games – he also got his first “cup of coffee” with the professional club. Playing five games for the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors, Benson put up three points in his first professional action.
Fast forward another year, Benson impressed in the 2018-19 Oilers camp but just wasn’t ready enough yet – not surprising for a player who has spent more time in rehab in the last four seasons than actually working out in the offseason. He then spent a full season with the Condors and impressed – his 66 points are the second-most points by an AHL rookie in the past seven seasons, only behind the Syracuse Crunch’s Alex Barre-Boulet. Benson had this to say about his first full season:
“Just playing all of last year I felt stronger on the puck, stronger on my skates, I just felt way better on the ice,”. “Going into practices and games I didn’t have aches or pains so mentally I was a lot more confident in myself.”
Benson got his first taste of professional playoff action in the 2018-2019 season as well, as the Condors made it to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs before being bounced by the San Diego Gulls. He finished the postseason with 7 points in 10 games.
Continuing the Journey
After a successful 2018-19 season, all eyes were on Benson to push the envelope in Oilers camp and earn a roster spot. He impressed through the camp, but ultimately got sent down on Sep. 20, 2019 after a demoralizing loss to the Vancouver Canucks, 6-1, in preseason play. He was among a total of 13 players getting sent down to the Condors. He took it with stride and focused on improving upon the Condors second-round finish last season.
42 games with Bakersfield is all it took, well, and a Joakim Nygard injury. Benson finally got the phone call he’s been waiting for – the Oilers called him and teammate William Lagesson up from the Condors. Lagesson replaced Kris Russell who also got put on injured reserve. Although Benson joined the Oilers earlier in the week, it wouldn’t be until the Feb. 6 game against San Jose that he saw action. He had this to say about the experience.
“Standing there for the national anthems, looking around at the crowd, pretty unreal,”. “To look around and see Patty Marleau and Joe Thornton, two guys I grew up watching since Day 1, that was a pretty cool moment.”From ‘Tyler Benson will always remember his first NHL shift,’ National Post, 02/08/2020
We’re sure there will be a lot of “pretty cool moments” as Benson continues his NHL career – it seems as if the Oilers will want to keep him in the lineup for a bit, hoping he catches fire like Kailer Yamamoto. One thing is for certain, the Condors farm system is churning out talent, something we haven’t been able to say about the AHL team for a long time.