EDMONTON, AB - Tyler Benson was slated to skate alongside Gaëtan Haas and Alex Chiasson in his National Hockey League debut.
But once it came time for the opening puck drop, the 2016 second-round draft pick found himself on the blueline next to Connor McDavid as part of the Oilers starting lineup while Anthem Singer Robert Clark belted the American and Canadian national anthems.
That experience - which took years of dedication and perseverance to achieve - was a long time in the making. For Benson, it was worth every ounce of sacrifice and will forever be cherished in his memory bank.
"Just standing there for the national anthems and looking around at the crowd was a pretty unreal moment," Benson said following Friday's practice. "Then you just look across and there's Patty Marleau and Joe Thornton, two guys I grew up watching since Day 1.
"It was a pretty cool moment."
Benson ended the night with one shot on goal, a minus-one rating and 9:25 of ice time over 13 shifts. After the initial faceoff, he assumed his intended position on the left side of Haas and Chiasson.
Video: PRE-RAW | Tyler Benson 02.07.20
"If you can have your first NHL game in your hometown, for sure, it's going to be a great memory," Haas said of Benson.
"There was a lot of excitement for him. He did well. He made a couple of really good plays, is smart as always and always in a good position. It was pretty fun to play with him."
Benson assessed the performance himself on Friday, noting the difference between the American Hockey League and NHL.
"I just tried working hard, being in position and keeping it safe," he said. "The pace (in the NHL) is a lot higher. It's just something you have to adjust to."
With 20 family members, many friends and an entire fan base in his corner, Benson could feel the love in Oil Country in his debut.
"I feel like I have lots of support," Benson said. "I just want to do the best I can."