Tyler Benson was the first overall selection in the 2013 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. He was coming off of a bantam season with the SSAC Lions that saw him rack up 146 points in 33 games. That’s almost 4.5 points per game.
Truth be told, Benson’s 99 games in the WHL is probably the first time in his hockey-playing life that he hasn’t been an over a point-per-game player. It also coincides with him likely not being completely healthy, as he missed 10 games in 2014-15 and 42 games in 2015-16 with a recurring lower-body injury (and complications therein).
Once thought to be a slam-dunk, sure-fire top 10 pick in this year’s draft, Benson could be available when the Calgary Flames draft at 35th overall in the second round.
I didn’t have a chance to see Benson in-person this season, so I’m a bit reliant on scouting reports from others.
From Future Considerations:
A powerful kid who uses both his brains and skill to outplay his
opponent. He has some skating issues that will need work, but is hard to
contain down low and can really be dangerous deep in the offensive
zone. He just owns the boards, protects the puck and wills himself to
win most one-on-one battles. His shot is pro caliber, and he needs
little space or time to put the puck in the net.
Although not a
game-breaker when it comes to speed, he has above-average acceleration
and ability to create separation … This comes from a powerful lower
body that produces a strong and stable stride. His power aids in fending
off checkers … Continues to push the pace especially when carrying the
puck; often has good solo efforts in transition … Uses his body well
to guard and hold off defenders and keep them on his back and away from
the puck … This flows from strong, precise edge work where more lower
body strength is obvious … Stops and starts make him slippery and tough
to defend, especially off the wall, powers through his edges to drive
his way to the net and create scoring chances.
When controlling for estimated ice time (via Prospect-Stats.com), he’s better in even strength points per 60 minutes than players like Sam Steel, Cliff Pu, Matt Phillips and Brett Howden. When you factor in that he was probably not 100% during this season, battling his injuries, he probably should be in the conversation as a mid-to-late first round pick like Dillon Dube, Pascal Laberge, Max Jones and Taylor Raddysh.
Benson was not healthy this season and was the best player on a team that didn’t have a ton of big guns (and missed the playoffs because they didn’t have Benson to be their difference-maker). Despite all of that, he still managed pretty impressive scoring totals (when he did play).
FIT WITH THE FLAMES
Let’s be honest here: the Flames can always use talented forwards that are hard to play against. The biggest problem the club has is that their big players aren’t particularly good and their good players aren’t particularly big. Benson’s listed at 6’0″ and 200 pounds, and the scouting reports are pretty consistent that he’s a pain in the ass to play against in terms of using his body and physicality.
Should the Flames be overly concerned with Benson’s injuries? I can see some teams being a bit hesitant in drafting Benson early, all things considered. But the Flames have three picks in the second round and five picks in the first 65 selections in the draft. Benson ticks off a ton of boxes for the Flames – offensive talent, size, toughness – and that could be enough to give them some courage to take a “gamble” on him. Considering that Benson’s improved every season he’s played up until hitting the Dub, the big question on him is whether injuries hampered him or if he topped out. History suggests that he could be ready for a big leap forward when (and if) he can stay healthy for 72 games.
If he’s got a clean bill of health, this could be the second draft in a row where a player with first round talent falls into the Flames’ laps in the second round. Oliver Kylington’s turned out well enough thus far, and Benson could be a very savvy pick this year.
SUM IT UP
Benson hasn’t quite lived up to his draft-day hype in the WHL, but his underlying numbers are pretty impressive for somebody who was dealing with a lingering lower-body injury for the majority of his major-junior tenure. If he’s got a clean bill of health, he’d absolutely be worth the risk when the Flames select in the second round.
Previous draft targets: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel | Vitalii Abramov | Jake Bean | Tyson Jost | Mikhail Sergachev