With much fanfare and ballyhoo, the Copper and Blue is pleased to present to you, gentle reader, the Summer 2015 installment of the Top 25 Under 25. Defenceman Ben Betker kicks off the list.
Here's where everyone on our panel had him ranked.
Previous Rank - 27
Ben Betker has improved his ranking in each Top 25 since he was drafted by the Oilers in 2013 (going from 33 in February of 2014 to 27 later in the year before finally cracking our list). Welcome to the big time, Ben.
WHO IS BEN BETKER?
Betker is a mammoth defenceman who hails from Cranbrook, BC. Drafted by the Oilers in the sixth round of the 2013 Entry Draft, the lefty spent the past three years with the Everett Silvertips (WHL). Ben Betker signed an entry level deal with the Oilers in March, and will be with the organization for at least the next three years.
WHY IS BETKER ON THIS LIST?
Betker is adept at using his size to try and muscle his opponent off of the puck, and he's not averse to throwing down when the time calls. Betker accumulated 285 PIMs in three seasons with Everett. This isn't to say that Betker is only a tough guy, because he's not. He went from a combined 16 fighting majors in his first two years with the 'Tips down to just two last year. Betker looks to be that shutdown 'presence' that you keep hearing about that's not currently on the Oilers roster. Although his offence has improved over his three years in Everett (he finished with 6-25-31 in 64 regular season games in 2014-15) Betker's bread and butter is his physical play in his own zone.
Betker's greatest strength is quite literally, his strength.
Here's what Hockey's Future has to say about Betker
Betker attended training camp with the Oilers before being returned to Everett at the start of the 2014-15 season. Now in his third WHL campaign, he has been a key factor in the Silvertips' resurgence the past two seasons under former NHL coach Kevin Constantine. In addition to cutting down on his penalty minutes this season, Betker has displayed offensive elements to his game and had topped his career highs in points and assists in early February. Long-term, he is likely to require additional seasoning to further develop his skating and technical skills at the minor pro level following his junior career. The progress he's made since first being drafted in 2013 suggests he can be the type of imposing, physical defender that is sorely lacking in an Edmonton organization known more for its high skill forwards.
Betker turns 21 at the end of September, and will be a training camp invite for the Oilers. Betker should see significant time in Bakersfield this year, where he'll continue to work on his play with the puck and his overall speed. Betker projects to be a mid or bottom-pair defenceman with some definite physical upside, although that's at least a year or two away at the NHL level. See Betker tower over most everyone this September at the YoungStars tournament in Penticton.