Matt Benning is one of four recent college signings eligible for this year’s list, and the second of this group to make the Top 20. He is the top ranked defender on this winter’s list, and this is his first appearance on any Top 20 list (was signed after the summer edition was published). In ranking Benning ahead of several young defenders, it is with the knowledge that Benning’s arrival in the NHL and early success probably represents the outer marker of reasonable for the group behind him.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 4 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2005: L Jean-Francois Jacques (166 NHL games)
- December 2006: C Andrew Cogliano (720 NHL games)
- December 2007: D Taylor Chorney (124 NHL games)
- December 2008: C Rob Schremp (114 NHL games)
- December 2009: C Chris VandeVelde (213 NHL games)
- December 2010: D Martin Marincin (162 NHL games)
- December 2011: L Teemu Hartikainen (52 NHL games)
- December 2012: D Martin Marincin (162 NHL games)
- December 2013: D Martin Marincin (162 NHL games)
- December 2014: C Bogdan Yakimov (1 NHL game)
- December 2015: R Anton Slepyshev (17 NHL games)
We have run out of impact performers by No. 4, and that is true for the entire decade. No doubt Andrew Cogliano is the best player on the list, and I do think Martin Marincin will have a career. Pleased for Chris VandeVelde, fourth-round selections don’t often get to 200 NHL games.
WHAT THEY SAID ON SIGNING DAY
- Shoots Right, 6.0, 203
- Boxcars: 41, 6-13-19
- NHL equivalency: 82, 4-10-14
- 2010-11 AJHL Champion Spruce Grove Saints
- 2012-13 Clark Cup Champion Dubuque Fighting Saints
- 2015-16 NCAA Hockey East Champion Northeastern University Huskies
- Kirk Luedeke, The Scouting Post: Although he has just average height, Benning is a punishing hitter who moves around the ice initiating contact. He’s got the vision and a soft touch on the puck to be effective in the transition game, and he also showed some improved power on his point shot this season for the Huskies. He’s not a flashy or dynamic offensive presence, but he chips in with key production, as he did in helping the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the USHL’s 2013 league championship. Benning is positionally savvy with a willingness to do the dirty work and like his dad, Brian, might be one of those players who goes on to fashion a solid if unspectacular NHL career because of his versatility and smarts. Source
- Corey Pronman: The nephew of Vancouver (and former Boston assistant) GM Jim Benning was a key cog in the Northeastern Huskies’ run to the Hockey East championship. He doesn’t have ideal height, but plays a rugged, physical and smart defensive game and is a little underrated in terms of his vision and passing skills. He’s not going to be a big point producer in the pros, but he plays bigger than his modest 6-foot frame and looks like a future third-pairing guy and special teamer. Currently unsigned, though reports at the end of the season had the Bruins expressing interest in bringing him out of the NCAA on an ELC. Source
- Simon Boisvert on Matt Benning: I think he needs a full season, perhaps they will call him up before if there are injuries. Don’t forget he is a righthanded shot, which is very convenient for the Oilers. He is a defenseman, he is fresh out of college hockey. He is playing exactly the way he played during training camp, he is very confident with the puck, he skates well, he is well positioned and he supports the forwards very, very well. Source
- Benning after NHL debut: “It was definitely exciting. I was a little nervous in the first period but I settled in pretty quick. The guys in the dressing room kind of prepped me for this. They have a bunch of really dynamic forwards out there so you’ve got to be careful not to look at the puck because they will make you look stupid so just moving my feet was the big thing and trying to make clean passes out of the zone.” Source
- Todd McLellan in training camp: “He’s coming along. Playing these games when you’re used to just playing on the weekend in university is something we have to be cognizant of. Some guys who’ve played in this league for a long time are used to the pace. Some younger players, college guys, don’t play this much. And the games aren’t so heavy.” Source
MATT BENNING, 2016-17
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.59
- 5×4 points per 60: 8.05 (in 7:27)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 55.7
- Qual Comp: second pair (estimate)
- Qual Team: top pair (estimate)
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: 3.4
- Shots on goal/percentage: 8 shots
- Boxcars: 7GP, 0-2-2
- Information via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com and hockey-reference.
Matt Benning has been surprisingly effective in his NHL audition and had a solid two game sojourn to the AHL (2gp, 1-1-2). As in the case of Drake Caggiula, slotting Benning here could be a mistake on my part—there are younger players who are showing great promise in junior and European leagues.
Here’s the thing: I am not certain any of the players I have ranked No. 5 through No. 40 will arrive at first year pro with this kind of promise. Is Benning’s current situation due to getting a push from management, and will he fade by this time next season? Possible, but he looks good in a very small window and his numbers show real promise.
I don’t really know enough about Matt Benning to rank him this high, and as you know the Top 20 ranking doesn’t give extra value for being close to NHL-ready. Although Benning is unlikely to be a big point producer in the NHL, and his size means there will be some concern about his durability, I like his speed, passing ability and decision making.
Perhaps it is a reflection of the overall weakness of this year’s list, but that may sell this player short. We know what we know about him, and the sample size is a giant warning signal, but his resume is solid, he was heavily pursued, and I think he belongs here.
THE 2012 DRAFT
- Nail Yakupov, No. 1 overall. He never got established in Edmonton, now plying his trade for the St. Louis Blues. We wish him the best, and I hope he scores 30. Graduated to the NHL.
- Griffin Reinhart, No. 4 overall. Reinhart is experiencing real challenges in year three of his entry-level deal. Ranked inside the Top 20.
- Mitch Moroz, No. 32 overall. Seems to be getting more playing time in the final year of his entry-level deal. This site has him at an estimated 2.12/60 5×5, but playing only 8:30 a night. Candidate for the Top 20.
- Jujhar Khaira, No. 63 overall. A strong season last year got him some NHL time and he is very close to the NHL at this time (despite current injury). Khaira is one of the few success stories for Edmonton from this draft. Ranked inside the Top 20.
- Daniil Zharkov, No. 91 overall. Injured during a tryout with the AHL team last fall, he is back in the KHL now and healthy. No longer in the organization.
- Erik Gustafsson, No. 93 overall. Productive defender in Europe, Oilers passed on opportunity to sign him. Signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and played well for them in 2015-16. Currently in the AHL (Chicago). No longer in the organization.
- Joey Laleggia, No. 123 overall. Undersized puck mover has offense and he has chaos. Remains an extreme long shot for NHL success. He is playing a lot (estimated TOI: 21:15) and posting good numbers (estimated 0.85/5×5 60) but he is not on a Torey Krug path. A candidate for the Top 20.
- John McCarron, No. 153 overall. Didn’t sign after college, now in the ECHL. No longer part of the organization.
- Drake Caggiula, not drafted. Passed through the 2012 entry draft, Edmonton signing him during the signing season this year. Considering the investment cost of Yakupov and Reinhart, there is a good chance the Chiarelli signing represents Edmonton’s best value from 2012 draft eligible players. Miles to go. No. 3 prospect.
- Matt Benning, drafted No. 175 overall in 2012. Benning was pursued by the Bruins (and others) before deciding on Edmonton. I expected him to spend the entire season in Bakersfield and it is a good bet we see him there for 30 or more games by the time this season is through. This is perhaps a hopeful bet, but the arrows and competition dictate Benning’s landing. No. 4 prospect.