After drafts using an offensively shy template for second-round selections for seemingly forever, the Edmonton Oilers may have gotten it right. Tyler Benson has his issues—injury is the big one—but he can scoot, has grit and can post offense. That is a very nice skill set for a second rounder.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER TWO ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2006: C Rob Schremp
- December 2007: C Andrew Cogliano
- December 2008: R Jordan Eberle
- December 2009: R Jordan Eberle
- December 2010: R Jordan Eberle
- December 2011: C Anton Lander
- December 2012: D Justin Schultz
- December 2013: D Oscar Klefbom
- December 2014: D Darnell Nurse
- December 2015: C Leon Draisaitl
This list contains some real home runs (Cogliano, Eberle, possibly Klefbom, Nurse and Draisaitl) and shows the Oilers have had some good drafting seasons. There are no No. 1 picks here, but six first-round selections in the group. Jordan Eberle is my choice for top player on this list, but he has some exceptional competition pushing through at the NHL level just now.
WHAT THEY SAID BEFORE DRAFT DAY
- Craig Button, November 2014: “He reminds so much of Jamie Benn at the same age. Tyler can make plays off the wing or score off the wing, and guys like him are rare. He thinks the game at such a high pace, and that translates when you can make plays, when everything around you is busy.” Source
- Claude Noel, who coached Benson: “He thinks the game at a really good level. He has a tremendous feel for where people are. His pursuit is excellent. He’s physical, he’s strong on the puck.” Source
PRE-DRAFT FINAL RANKINGS
- Corey Pronman: No. 18
- Bob McKenzie: No. 39
- Craig Button: No. 44
- Black Book: No. 34
- McKeens: No. 43
- ISS: No. 55
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- His .700 even-strength points-per-game ranked him No. 2 among (first time) 2016 draft-eligible WHL forwards (Dillon Dube, .707—he was chosen No. 56 overall by Calgary).
- His .567 primary even-strength points-per-game ranked him No. 2 among (first time) 2016 draft-eligible WHL forwards (Dillon Dube, .585—he was chosen No. 56 overall by Calgary).
- He did this on a team that won 23 games, and the Giants were one of five teams in the league to score fewer than 200 goals.
- Corey Pronman: Benson has great instincts, constantly finding seams to get the puck to his teammates or on net. “He never wows you,” said one scout, “but he’s always around the puck, making a good play.” Benson is a quality defensive forward with great work ethic in battles and solid overall positional play. He doesn’t shy away from throwing a hit, and is strong on the puck.
- Black Book: Benson shows a strong compete level with a bulldog mentality. He’s the type who would rather go through you than around you. He plays with emotion and goes over the edge at times showing frustration. While we like him when he plays his power game, it was a somewhat inconsistent occurrence this season, something that was likely impacted by the nagging injuries.
- Benson on getting drafted by the Oilers: ‘A very special moment, growing up an Oiler fan. It was a pretty special moment being able to put that jersey on.’ Source
— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) June 25, 2016
- Peter Chiarelli: “You can just see it from day to day, he’s gotten better out here. He’s a smart player, he’s a strong player. He makes so many plays out there. He has a ways to go with his conditioning, he really hasn’t skated in a long time at this pace or this level, so he still has some ramping up to do, but we’re very happy with the selection. You can see the talent and the skill and the hockey sense out there. The hockey sense is through the roof with him.” Source
- Benson was injured during Orientation, rookie and main camp, so Oilers fans didn’t get a good chance to see him this fall. He is a highly anticipated selection for fans, as Benson has both the resume and boxcars that suggests he can cover a second-round number.
Tyler Benson with a goal and two assists last night at #CANvsRUS. Has the mould to be a NHL two-way winger with good playmaking abilities
— Brayden Sully (@SullyDraftGeek) November 9, 2016
- Summer 2016: No. 4
- Winter 2016: No. 2
Benson is the player-type I have always gravitated to, two-way player with skill and smarts. A forward who can contribute offensively and contest defensively is worth his weight in gold—see Craig Ramsay, Don Marcotte, et cetera. Now, we can’t call him that yet, but the tools are there and if he can stay healthy I am betting Edmonton has something here.
In choosing Benson over several others who were under consideration, I chose range of skills over offense, forward over defense. Although Benson is ranked No. 2, the gap from 2-8 is not large to my eye.
Benson is over a point per game in his draft+1 season (14gp, 8-9-17) and appears to be the best offensive player on a middling Vancouver Giants club. The thing to watch for the rest of this season is the offense, because if he can post a strong set of boxcars perhaps he can be projected onto a high skill line. That is basically the future for Edmonton—finding second-round picks who might be able to play with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—and Benson is a pretty good candidate.
Prospect Insider Simon Boisvert (who appears often on the Lowdown) likes Benson a lot, and feels the best spot for the young winger next fall is the AHL. Benson cannot play with Bakersfield next year, but we may watch for Edmonton to give him a long look in training camp fall 2017.
THE 2016 DRAFT
- Jesse Puljujarvi—No. 4 overall. Edmonton has enjoyed two lucky moments in consecutive drafts, and getting Puljujarvi was an enormous stroke of luck. We do not know the totality of his offense, so there is reason to be measured in our enthusiasm. Still, if he can become a 25-goal scorer along with all of the other skills, Edmonton will have another impact player. No. 1 prospect.
- Tyler Benson—No. 32 overall. Two-way winger scoring well in the WHL and he was one of the impact players during the Canada-Russia series (that is ongoing). Expect a strong offensive run this winter and a slight chance he gets some NHL time in 2017-18 as a 19-year old. No. 2 prospect.
- Markus Niemelainen—No. 63 overall. Niemelainen is a big (6.05, 200 on draft day) defenseman with speed and raw skills. He has two-way ability but that has not shown itself in Saginaw (OHL) where he has just one point in 13 games this season. Ranked inside Top 20.
- Matthew Cairns—No. 84 overall. He is another defenseman who has much development ahead, but in this case there appears to be an offensive payoff clearly visible. Now 10gp, 0-2-2 with the Fargo Force, playing time has been an early issue in his new league. He is big and has a nice range of skills.
- Filip Berglund—No. 91 overall. He is the most interesting defenseman in the group, owing to both range of skills and the fact he is already playing in a pro league (SHL, 12gp, 0-1-1). Has enough finesse to be considered a puck mover, he has good vision and is an excellent passer. A very nice skill set. Ranked inside Top 20.
- Dylan Wells—No. 123 overall. Well. There is a temptation to trumpet progress (.926SP this year is a spike of 55 points year over year) but it is simply too soon. Can he manage to bear up under the pressure of playing for a poor team (they appear to be genuinely awful)? He has good size and is athletic, and is clearly playing with confidence. Ranked inside Top 20.
- Graham McPhee, No. 149 overall. Intriguing selection (Corey Pronman liked him) and I wonder if he is (like Niemelainen and Cairns) something of a draft and follow. His early Boston College numbers (11gp, 0-4-4) are solid, but so much of college hockey numbers depend on playing time. Kind of a mystery at this point. Candidate for Top 20.
- Aapeli Rasanen, No. 153 overall. As is the case with Wells, we must resist overreacting to a strong start (USHL numbers—10gp, 3-8-11). A true center, he is an excellent passer who can finish, plays in all disciplines and is a fine face-off man. An impressive group of skills for so late in the draft, he is described as having average foot speed. Inside the Top 20.
- Vincent Desharnais, No. 183 overall. Steve Kournianos (via the Lowdown): Very big, skates awkward but makes good first pass. Not physical, no way on the PP. Best thing he does is stand people up, use long stick to jar puck loose during board play. Doesn’t have Paigin’s shot/skill.