We’re now nearing the top of our top 25 under 25 list, and you know what that means. Elite prospects! For real, I’m not writing about guys who may crack the fourth line in two years. I’m writing about difference makers now, guys with some legitimately impressive pedigrees.
In fact, this blog post is about a former first overall pick. Can you guess who? If you guessed Connor McDavid, boy are you wrong. He’s obviously number one on this list. Like, it’s not even close. No, today I’m writing about the number one overall pick from the 2013 WHL Bantam draft. Tyler Benson.
Benson is an Edmontonian, who grew up playing for the Confederation Minor Hockey Association. He went first overall in the 2013 Bantam draft to the Vancouver Giants, and ended up captaining that squad in his age 17, 18, and 19 seasons.
Benson’s junior career was partially derailed by injuries. He only played 121 regular season games in his final three seasons in the dub. The Oilers drafted him in the second round (32 overall), in the 2016 NHL draft,
After finishing his major junior career at the end of the Giants’ 2017-18 campaign, Benson made his pro debut in Bakersfield. He recorded three points in five games as an end-off-season call-up. Then, in his first full season as a pro last year, the Condors rookie led the team (the most successful Bakersfield team since their move to the AHL, I might add) in scoring, with 66 points in 68 games, to go along with a +21 plus/minus rating, the third best mark on the club, among forwards.
As a natural left winger, with a solid offensive acumen, Benson should be able to make a strong push for prime offensive role alongside the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins in 2019-20. At the age of 21, with an AHL team scoring title, for a division winner, under his belt, Benson has proven to have the ability to excel at the highest minor league level. Therefore, it stands to reason that he’s legitimately earned a shot at a prominent role with the big club.
In order to be successful, it is imperative that a team receives a healthy amount of surplus value, meaning that they need to get valuable contributions from players who aren’t necessarily paid as if they’re expected to make a major positive contribution. There are a number of different ways that players can produce surplus value, but the most common way is for players on rookie contracts to make significant contributions. Benson may very well be one of the Oilers’ best bets to provide such a contribution. He’s about as established as a non-elite prospect can be, and he’s still at an age where a tremendous amount of growth from year to year still isn’t out of the question.
The Oilers won’t get anywhere without major contributions from their stallions, like McDavid and Draisaitl. But, as we saw last season, greatness from the top guys isn’t enough. The Oilers need to provide them with at least a modicum of support, especially from the wings. With any luck, Tyler Benson could be a major contributor of that support.