Landing just outside the Top 5 in the 2017 Top 25 Under 25 is Matthew Benning who checks into the list at number seven. Benning’s exceptional play and ability to earn and keep a spot on the Oilers NHL roster his first season after leaving the NCAA are just a few of the reasons he finds himself so highly ranked.
The Copper and Blue Team consistently ranked him fairly high.
Background and History
Matthew Benning is a 23-year-old, 6’ tall, right shot defenseman who played in both the AJHL and the USHL before committing to the Northeastern University Huskies for three years of Division I NCAA hockey in the Hockey East Division. He was drafted 175
In his junior career, Benning captured a AJHL Championship in 2010/2011 with the Spruce Grove Saints and a USHL Clark Cup in 2012/2013 with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. From there he moved to the NCAA and Northeastern Huskies.
Benning signed a two-year entry level contract with the Oilers in the summer of 2016 and made the jump to the pros the following fall. He played his first game in the 2016/2017 season in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors. He played two games in the AHL and scored two points. On November 1, 2016, he made his debut with the Oilers. Benning spent the rest of the season in the NHL, but his biggest impact came in the playoffs when the Oilers found themselves short defensemen due to injuries.
Through 62 NHL games, Benning had 15 points with three goals. In an additional 12 playoff games he added 3 more assists for a total of 18 points in 74 games for his rookie season. Not a bad impact for a player just starting out in the NHL.
Why He Made the List
Benning made the list primarily on the strength of his 2016/2017 season. . After all, a lot of the rest of it boils down to Connor McDavid. Stay tuned to the Top 25 Under 25 to see where McDavid is ranked. Benning’s play this season has been more than most were expecting. He’s been a steady presence on the blueline, not letting the grandeur of the NHL or the NHL playoffs visibly shake him and playing a reliable defensive game that Oilers fans are beginning to count on. The addition of smart offense makes him a defenseman with a bright future.
Benning is also a physical player who can be described as a “ The Oilers need players who play smart hockey to continue their development as a team. Benning certainly looks like someone who will fit into the Oilers plans long-term. The Oilers will have to re-sign Benning at the end of the 2017/2018 season, but that seems likely.
Why He Made the List at Seven
Benning is young for a defender at 23; he shows a lot of promise and potential, but it’s impossible to know if the coming season will be a repeat or a regression. , and if that happens, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see Benning ranked higher next Top 25 Under 25. However, until there is more evidence, many may rank Benning more conservatively. It doesn’t help that the top spots in the Top 25 Under 25 are also held by some incredibly talented players who may be impossible to displace. In that respect, Benning might be ranked higher than many expect as there is still some contention as to whether Benning or Nurse is the future of the Oilers defense.