I’m typing this article up on a combination of an iPad Air 2 + Apple Magic Keyboard 2. It’s replacing my very-powerful-yet-very-old-and-temperamental Macbook Pro that I picked up sometime in 2010. It’s a great computer and all, but more often than not it’s a headache to use, it doesn’t show up for me every day, and basically I just needed something new, different, more reliable. Maybe the iPad doesn’t have the same kind of raw computing power as my old Mac, but it is also without the old, buggy software and backlog of files slowing it down every time I need to count on it.
Which is, of course, an absolutely perfect metaphor for who we’re going to be talking about today: Tyler Benson. I’m going all in here, and I’m predicting that Tyler Benson is going to grow into the perfect left wing replacement for Taylor Hall. It might not be this season or the next, but wait and see. By his early 20s, Benson is going to be an absolute force in the NHL, and he’ll be tearing it up on the left side in a very Hall-like fashion, but (hopefully) without all the other bullshit getting in the way of otherwise remarkable performances.
The Edmonton Oilers picked up a really interesting player in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Tyler Benson. He’s an Edmonton boy, and a minor celebrity coming out of the South Side Athletic Club following his just absurd numbers put up in AAA with the Lions Bantam team. Touted by some analysts in the early 2010s to be the “Next One” out of Western Canada, how did such a shining prospect fall into the Oilers’ laps 32nd overall in the 2nd round?
In a word: injuries.
The kid was an absolute monster in AAA. Like, as in, “numbers no one had ever seen before.” He scored 146 points (57G, 89A) in 33 (33!) games in 2013 for the SSAC Lions. Can you just imagine for a second what scoring almost 4 1/2 points per game must feel like? Absurd. And according to an Edmonton-based /r/hockey redditor familiar with his junior league play, Benson’s bantam coach — in an apparent show of mercy and good sportsmanship (but mostly mercy) — would often bench him for much of the 3rd periods of his games when the scores just got out of hand. So really, his point totals should’ve been even higher than the already-terrifying numbers he put up playing only 2/3 of his normal shifts.
But last winter, after being drafted first overall into the WHL for the 2014-15 season and putting up a very good showing (62GP-14G-26A-40TP), his 2015-16 campaign was cut short to only 30 games when he had to have surgery to remove a cyst from his back. In a stroke of horribly bad fortune, Tyler then developed a groin/lower core issue called osteitis pubis, which is a disorder that kids get from working out too much and too hard.
Boxcars are good and all, but with the absence of advanced stats in the minor leagues, how does Benson really “play the game” outside of putting up just a whacky amount of points, and why do I think he’ll be a perfect Taylor Hall replacement if he gets back and keeps his health?
Steve Kournianos has this to say about the Vancouver Giants captain:
“He is a nightmare to defend because he is as physically punishing with the puck as he is without it… Benson is very shifty with tremendous balance, meaning he can continue to move if he gets hit at the same time he decides to change direction. Possessing the kind of vision and IQ he owns makes it no surprise the CHL came close to giving him “exceptional” status to play a full season as a 15 year old (cut short by a knee injury).”
He’s not a small guy at 6′ and 200lbs, and if his scouting reports are to be believed, he’s steady and stable with and without the puck, and can be a real force at both ends of the ice. He’s sure-footed, and the word “complete” gets used time and time again when referring to the guy. Say what you want about Taylor Hall, but to my eyes and ears, we were never seeing or hearing those things said about him. Hall simply isn’t a defensively-minded forward, and despite his elite foot speed, almost every game he was over-skating pucks and slipping on the ice at inopportune times. Flame away in the comments section, guys, but I’m just sayin’…
Chiarelli says Benson’s hockey sense is “through the roof”, and the reports out of orientation camp in Jasper this year have him looking and feeling healthy. The Oilers organization has a real gem with former Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater David Pelletier as their skating coach, and I have no doubt that he and the other coaches in the system will be working closely with Benson to ensure that he maintains his health in a sustainable way.
The irony here is that, had Tyler been fully healthy for his last season in the W, there’s no chance the Oilers get to pick him up at #32. The same Draft Analyst article by Kournianos has him being compared with the likes of Auston Matthews with regard to his on-the-spot corrections and his ability to create offense in ostensibly impossible situations, for Christ’s sake. I, for one, am right chuffed on Tyler Benson, and I look forward to having this article cited about four years from now when he’s considered an elite NHL winger and I get to say “I told you so!”