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BLOG: Young Oilers cast prove they can play

Darnell Nurse, Drake Caggiula, Matt Benning and Anton Slepyshev just need to stay consistent

by Paul Gazzola /

The other young cast of Oilers forwards - Drake Caggiula, Darnell Nurse and Anton Slepyshev - showed they can play this season.

They proved it in the post-season by contributing to the team's success while earning responsibility on the ice, sometimes playing higher up in the lineup or in a bottom role.

"A lot of them did play up when you think about them in the lineup," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "It's whether they can consistently do that. The difference of playing on the team and being a good player and a steady contributor, and being a go-to higher end top-six guy is that you've got to do it every day."

For McLellan, it all rides on consistency.

"They were very good in the playoffs. They contributed. Can they do that in October and can they continue to do that through December and January and February? That's the next level that they have to get to and we expect that group of players to get there."

Defenceman Matt Benning also falls under the young category and he was exemplary in the playoffs and throughout the regular campaign.

"He exceeded what I thought he would do," said McLellan. "That's about as upfront as I can be."

There was a bit of mystery as to how Benning would fit in with the League from the get-go but McLellan maintained he came in as a wonderful surprise.

"We didn't play him in the first six games because we weren't sure." said McLellan. "We played him in game seven, not sure if we were going to play him in game eight, not sure if we were going to play in game nine and all of a sudden it's game 82 and he's still playing. Credit to him and to his partners that played with him and the group to bring him along but he's a tremendous player."

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