Don’t look now, but the Edmonton Oilers signed another free agent College defenseman, yet, this time, his name isn’t Justin Schultz.
Despite making a number of massive changes to their roster in the off-season of 2016, most notably adding defender Adam Larsson and power forward Milan Lucic, the Oilers were, after all, not done when it came to improving their organization.
Having already signed one of the most sought-after College free agents of 2016 in Drake Caggiula, the Oilers set their sights on, and signed, Matthew Benning, a defenseman who spent the past three seasons in Boston playing at Northeastern University to a two-year contract. A native of St. Albert, Alberta, located roughly 30 minutes from downtown Edmonton, signing with the Oilers is somewhat of a return home for Benning, who despite being selected in the sixth round, 175th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Bruins, chose not to sign with Boston.
Told interest from multiple teams on unsigned Bruins pick Matthew Benning. Right shot D, smart, competitive. LA, EDM, VAN all make sense
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) August 20, 2016
The Scouting Report
A somewhat offensive defenseman, as witnessed through his 56 points over 110 career NCAA games to date, Benning, the nephew of Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning, plays a surprisingly physical brand of hockey, weighing in at an average height of 6′ and a strong, sturdy weight of 205 pounds.
When in possession of the puck, Benning has good vision and the ability to find his teammates throughout the ice. His quietly strong hands and puck skills allow Benning to move the puck to his teammates effectively, especially so when it comes to moving out of his own zone in a quick and effective manner. Further, Benning wields an improving shot from the point, as witnessed by his career high in goals last season with Northeastern.
On the defensive side of the game, Benning is known for his quality positioning in his own zone, an awareness which allows him to seal off opposing defenders while often shutting them down against the boards with his strong physical play. Further, Benning’s hockey sense allows him to read and anticipate the play well, providing him the ability to shut down offensive opportunities before they materialize.
A Rare Right Shot Defender
Well, although they’re not necessarily rare, right shot defenders in Edmonton have become an uncommon commodity. The Oilers iced just one right shot defenseman in 2015-16 in the form of Mark Fayne, and have since added, of course, a hopeful top-pairing defender in Larsson. One of Edmonton’s top defensive prospects, Ethan Bear, is also a right-shot, but otherwise, the Oilers’ cupboard is relatively bare.
Adding further value to Benning’s signing is the fact that he is a right shot defenseman, a quality which Peter Chiarelli surely deemed valuable when he drafted the defender back in 2012 while with the Bruins.
In signing, Benning becomes just the seventh right-shooting defender within the Oilers’ organization, joining the previously mentioned Larsson, Fayne and Bear, as well as prospects John Marino, Filip Berglund and Vincent Desharnais.
Long a deficiency of the Oilers’ roster, adding Benning further strengthens Edmonton’s pool of right-shot defenders, which although still drastically undermanned, has already seen considerable improvement under the guidance of Chiarelli.
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.