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FUTURE WATCH: Bakersfield's season of adversity

"It was a good learning year for us," Oilers forward prospect Tyler Benson said of the Condors season

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Adversity builds character, and in the 2019-20 American Hockey League season, the Bakersfield Condors experienced plenty of it. 

On Monday, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer David Andrews announced the cancellation of the regular season and 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs, ending Bakersfield's campaign with a 21-27-5-3 record; a stark contrast to last year's 42-21-3-2 finish, which was highlighted by an unbelievable 17-game winning streak and a franchise-first playoff berth.

This past schedule was filled with teachable moments for the budding Oilers prospects, who came to find that nothing in the game of hockey is ever given, but rather, earned.

"It was a little different than my first pro season, that's for sure," forward Tyler Benson, who fielded the media Wednesday on a video conference call along with goaltender Stuart Skinner, said.

"There was a little bit more ups and downs this year and a little bit of inconsistency with our team play. But it was a good learning year for us to just kind of build off of what we did our first year, showing us that it doesn't come easy no matter what you did the year previous."

Netminder Skinner echoed a similar sentiment, in what was his first opportunity to get a grasp of the AHL game after backstopping the club in 41 outings.

"We didn't get the results that we wanted right off the start," Skinner, who went 16-17-6 with a 3.31 goals-against average and .892 save percentage, said. 

Video: RAW | Benson & Skinner

"I thought that our team had to handle a lot of adversity throughout the season. It was just kind of a tougher season for us, especially coming off a season where we were first place in our division."

Benson, 22, had a breakout rookie campaign in '18-19, scoring 15 goals and 66 points in 68 games. In his sophomore year, he tallied nine times and collected 36 points in 47 contests, earning an AHL All-Star nod and eventually getting the call-up to the Oilers for a taste of National Hockey League action.

"I think just getting those games was big for me," the Edmonton product said. "Just being able to play and see the pace of play. It shows me how hard I have to keep training to try and get to that level so that when I get another opportunity to play there, I'll just be more ready for it."

As for Skinner, who took ownership of the Condors crease after starter Shane Starrett was injured early in the year, this season of adversity was necessary for his evolution as a net protector. The 21-year-old was a sponge all year, even being summoned to the big club to backup Mikko Koskinen when the squad was without the services of Mike Smith for a game in Vancouver. 

"I think being able to get a few more games than I probably would have thought coming into this season - obviously, with Shane Starrett getting injured at the start - pushed me to get to that next level of finding my game and trying to find my consistencies as being an AHL goaltender," the 6-foot-3, 203-pound guardian said.

"I think it was a lot of learning for me this year, being able to play at an AHL level and being able to play 40-some games. It was a really good experience for me and helped me big time."

While there may not be AHL hockey coming back this season, the lessons learned from the roller-coaster campaign left profound effects on the prospective Oilers.

"You always have to come back to work and keep working hard to try and stay at the top," Benson said.

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