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Versatile Benson impressing at Canada's U-18 camp

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- According to Vancouver Giants forward Tyler Benson, the expectations have always been there.

But Benson, named to NHL Central Scouting's Futures List for North America and Europe in June, welcomes them as the potential first round pick awaits the 2016 NHL Draft next June.

"I don't think it makes it any easier," Benson told NHL.com at Canada's National Men's Summer Under-18 Team selection camp at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. "You have to perform this year. You have to go out there and try to be the best every day. If you're playing to the expectations, you're going to do well."

Heightened expectations on Benson's arrival to the Western Hockey League come following a minor hockey career with a rich résumé.

In 2011-12 playing with the Southside Athletic Club as a bantam-aged player at 13, Benson scored 34 goals and had 84 points in 33 games. The following season, Benson set the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League's scoring record, with 57 goals and 146 points, breaking the previous mark set by St. Louis Blues prospect Ty Rattie in 2007-08 (131 points in 33 games for the Airdrie Xtreme). Benson's season led SSAC to Alberta and Western Canadian AAA titles, and earned him the AMBHL's MVP award.

Vancouver made the 6-foot, 196-pound center the first selection in the Western Hockey League's Bantam Draft, and after graduating to the Midget ranks in 2013-14, Benson led the Pursuit of Excellence Academy in Kelowna, B.C., in scoring with 37 goals and 95 points.

But Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada's director of player personnel, doesn't necessarily see Benson as that player moving forward.

"When you're drafted first overall and you put up those points in Bantam and Midget hockey, those expectations come with it," Jankowski said. "The first thing you think about Tyler Benson is what he was when he was younger. I don't think he's that player now. I think he's a well-rounded player that plays a 200-foot game that has that pro mentality already.

"He's not a flashy guy. He's not a guy that's going to put up the points he put up in Bantam and Midget, but he's a hell of a hockey player. What separates Tyler is his hockey sense. It's the fact that coaches really like him. He's a character guy. He can really fit anywhere in your lineup. He's going to be a hell of a player. He really is a versatile guy.

"It's going to be the shift of people watching him to not think that he's this high-end producing guy, but he's just a real solid hockey player and that's going to be for Tyler to really adapt and go with it too, which I think he really did through his 16-year-old year," Jankowski said.

At 16 in his rookie season with the Giants, Benson scored 14 goals and had 45 points in 62 games as Vancouver finished last in the WHL's Western Conference.

"Personally, I think I had a good start to the league," said Benson, who has represented Canada twice at the World Under-17 Challenge and at the 2015 World Under-18 Championship last April. "It was a good way to get started and down into it. I know what to expect coming into this year. I hope I can raise my game this year."

Benson is hoping to build on last season's success.

"I'm just more excited to get it started with and see how things go this year," he said. "I'm not too nervous about it yet. When the time comes down when the season is done maybe, but I'm just excited to get things going. Watching the drafts and seeing some of the guys I know drafted last year is pretty exciting. I'm hoping I can do that this year."

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