BUFFALO, NY - Oilers logos and photographs were a common sight in Tyler Benson’s childhood home.
The Edmonton native grew up a big fan of his hometown team.
“I grew up wearing Oilers jerseys, cheering for them and watching them on TV,” Benson said.
So when the Oilers called his name Saturday, selecting the Vancouver Giants winger 32nd overall, Benson had a childhood dream fulfilled. He donned an Oilers jersey with his name on the back.
“I’m just really happy,” Benson said, grinning from ear to ear. “I’m speechless, I guess. I’m just really happy about it. Seeing my name on this jersey is an awesome feeling.”
Benson’s favourite Oilers memories are from the 2006 playoffs, in which the team made a run to the Final. His favourite players were Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. His mother was also a Smyth fan, wearing his jersey.
“My favourite memory was the 2006 playoff run when they made it to the Final and that was really exciting for the city and myself,” said Benson. “It was just fun being able to watch that and just how much excitement there was in the city.”
Benson knew the Oilers were interested, having spoken with the scouts on a few occasions. But you can’t predict where things will fall in the draft.
“I felt there was a chance,” he said. “I had a lot of conversations with them throughout the year and at the Combine. I thought they all went pretty well. They’re pretty excited with me. I felt there was a chance, but anything can happen.”
There was a definite chance the Oilers would never have a shot at Benson. There was a time in which Benson was on track to be a locked-in first-round pick. But Benson had to battle adversity.
Benson required surgery to remove a cyst from his tailbone. That, in turn, required a lengthy rehab which suffered a setback due to osteitis pubis, an inflated pubic bone. The ailment affected his overall health and play.
Despite the adversity, Benson did manage to play 30 games for Vancouver this season and posted nearly a point per game. He had nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points. He was healthy enough to participate in the NHL Scouting Combine.
“I’m back on the ice working on that,” he said. “I haven’t had any problems for a while now and I think being able to be at the Combine and doing all the exercises and that made teams a little more comfortable.”
Still, Benson slipped past where he may have gone prior to the injuries and right to the Oilers at 32.
“I would have liked to be able to play this year to prove myself and to be able to have the chance to go higher, but I’m pretty happy to be able to put on this jersey,” he said.
The potential is there. Benson lit up Bantam AAA in Edmonton, shattering the league record for points in a season with 146 (57-89-146) in just 33 games. He was named the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League MVP. And, Benson possesses attributes Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli covets. He’s a hard-working competitor.
“Just a very competitive player,” Benson said, describing when he’s at his best. “I work really hard on the ice. With my hockey sense, I just create lots of chances offensively. I think that’s what I do. I just work really hard and I’m a very competitive player.”
Benson could have went higher in the draft at one point, but he’s happy Edmonton was where the waiting stopped. His family is happy he’s able to put on the jersey as well. He’ll be close to home, and loyalties won’t have to change.
“I think it’s very special for them, almost as special as for me,” Benson said. “I know I’ll be getting a lot of texts from my family. I know our family has a lot of Oilers fans.”
And those in the Benson clan who weren’t before are likely fans now.