Edmonton Oilers training camp is well underway now with a few days in the books. A storyline that you may have been following is the battle for spots in the bottom-6 of the lineup. With the recent news about Josh Archibald, it opens up a door and gives way for winger Tyler Benson.
Benson Is Ready to Take the Next Step
He was already going to get a better look this season, as he performed incredibly in the American Hockey League last year as a member of the Bakersfield Condors’ top line. A point-per-game player in the AHL in 2020-21, he has spent parts of four seasons with the Condors after graduating from Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. During his tenure with the Condors, he racked up 141 points in 156 games. Any more time down there will stunt his development further.
Benson also believes he is ready to be a full-time NHL player.
“This is where I want to be. This is where I want to be a full-time player, and personally, I just feel like I’m an NHL player.(Canadian Hockey Network, Tyler Benson)
He is right. Many have gotten their shots in the NHL having accomplished a lot less than Benson has. It’s not easy to put up points as he did in the AHL. Sure, it’s not all about points, but it’s rather about an all-around game.
Has Benson Been Held Back
A big thing, though, is opportunity. Some teams like to keep signing older players to fill out their roster and force their young players to stew in the minors longer than necessary. The Detroit Red Wings are a perfect example of that, and who else but Ken Holland was at the head of those decisions.
Holland’s reasoning behind developing players for a long time makes sense, but it can also frustrate fans and players alike. He was quoted in 2013 discussing his approach to player development.
“We picked 18th this year. That’s the highest we’ve picked in 20 years, so we’re not picking the best players that are available. Our players that we select are deeper in the draft for a variety of reasons. One of which is that they’re not ready to play. They need to get stronger. They need to get better. They need to develop as people and as players, so we’re about that process.”(Kevin Sporka, hookedonhockeymagazine.com, July 12, 2013)
This can easily be applied to Benson, as he was the 32nd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. As Holland states, he was taken there for a reason; he isn’t ready. Generally, only the very top of the draft is ready to jump right into the league, and even then, most of them experience growing pains.
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After four full seasons in the minors, Benson’s development is complete, and the opportunity presents itself for him to seize. Speaking to the physical maturity that Holland expects from the prospects before they’re ready to make the jump, Benson was asked if he has lost some weight. He confirmed that to be the case and also that he’s gotten stronger in the gym.
“I guess I’m 185 (pounds) right now and I probably played at around the lower 190s last season. So I have lost a little bit of weight and have definitely gotten stronger in the gym, so that has helped me for the on ice.”(Edmonton Oilers, RAW | Tyler Benson 09.24.21)
He feels like he has put in the work, and it has finally shone through. This year was a little different for him, as he never felt like the test results well represented how much work he has put in, and this year it has.
Benson Impressing Early in Training Camp
Yesterday, Benson spoke following the scrimmage he participated in. He emphasized all the hard work he puts in each summer to gain that extra step and be ready to earn his spot (“Oilers training camp observations: Evan Bouchard looks ‘like he belongs,’ Tyler Benson’s early impact and more,” The Athletic, September 25, 2021).
Benson talks about rounding out his game under Condor’s coach Jay Woodcroft, with an emphasis put on the penalty kill. If he is to be a member of the Oilers this season, he feels like he will have to bring something like penalty-killing to the table. The top guys on the team will be out there for more offensive zone draws and scoring chances, so more of the defensive responsibility may fall to the bottom-six forwards.
To bring another element to your game increases Benson’s value and makes it easier for the team to keep him around. He believes he is a smart player, and it’s just about getting the reps in to learn how to be an effective penalty killer. With Archibald’s status in question, his spot on one of the penalty-killing units will be up for grabs.
As we get deeper into training camp, Bob Stauffer tells us that Benson continues to look good. It wasn’t just an initial outburst; he’s for real this year.
From being one of the original prospects stuck in the minors that fans have been waiting on to see with the team, the time is now to make the jump to the Oilers and never look back. Benson believes, fans believe, so all that is left is for him to show management why they should too.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.