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Oilers hope forward prospect Benson can stay healthy

19-year-old's development has been delayed by injuries

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers forward prospect Tyler Benson has struggled with injuries since he was chosen in the second round (No. 32) of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Benson, 19, was limited to 33 games with Vancouver of the Western Hockey League last season and 30 in 2015-16.

Yet the Edmonton native said he feels he's on the road to recovery after participating in Oilers development camp this month in Jasper, Alberta, skating in a group setting for the first time since having surgery to repair a sports hernia on April 18.

"It is frustrating, but it's part of the game, I have to deal with it," Benson said before camp opened. "But I think once we're past this, it's going to be nice. I think we're getting there, but we're still working on it, for sure."

Benson said he expects to be healthy in time for training camp in September and hopes to get his development back on track.

A minor hockey sensation in Edmonton, Benson set the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League record in 2012-13 with 146 points (57 goals, 89 assists) in 33 games. He was chosen No. 1 in the WHL Bantam Draft by Vancouver in 2013 and had a strong rookie season as a 16-year-old with 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) in 62 games in 2014-15.

The following year, Benson had surgery to remove a cyst in his spine, delaying the start of his season. He then developed osteitis pubis, an inflammation of the pelvis, which ended his season. Last season, he struggled with a sports hernia that finally required surgery.

Video: 1-on-1 With Tyler Benson

"It's tough, I didn't really know what was going on too much," he said. "But at the end of the year, I finally just shut it down and it was good to get that [surgery] done and just look forward to this season. I'm exciting to get the new season started."

As Benson enters his fourth year in the WHL, the Oilers are hoping he can stay healthy and be one of the top point producers in the league. Edmonton is monitoring Benson's recovery closely and limited his ice time at development camp.

"We're trying to be cautious and make sure we get it right this year, so when he moves into the season, he's fully prepared to have a successful and productive season," Oilers senior director of player development Rick Carriere said. "He's excited about it. He's going through all the steps he has to from the end of the season, to rehab, into some training, and he's been skating a little while now with [Oilers skating coach] David Pelletier."

Development camp was the hardest Benson has skated since his surgery, and he said he was apprehensive about pushing himself.

"It was a little tentative at first because in the back of your head, you know it's still there, you're always thinking about it, wondering if it's going to come back," he said. "But it felt good. We're still rehabbing. I still have to keep working on things, but it's feeling good."

Benson said he believes he can develop into a productive top-six NHL forward if he can stay injury-free.

"I'm hoping this is the end of it," Benson said. "I haven't had a full season in two years now, so it would be nice to come in for my 19-year-old [WHL] year and be one of the dominant players on the ice."

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