EDMONTON, AB - Oilers prospect Tyler Benson is no longer watching games from the press box. Edmonton's second-round selection (32nd-overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft was sidelined since the 2016-17 season with injuries, keeping him limited to only 33 games last campaign in the Western Hockey League. Now, the Edmonton product is back playing for the Vancouver Giants and Benson hasn't missed a step, producing nine points in seven games with the Giants already. EdmontonOilers.com caught up with Benson to talk about being back to playing and more.
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What's it like to finally be back on the ice playing games?
"It's definitely good to be back. It was a long time away from the rink, being away from my team but I'm definitely happy to be back to be playing games and practicing."
What was your initial reaction to your first shift back?
"It just felt good. I had a lot of energy in my first game. It felt different driving to the rink. It didn't feel right, I guess, driving to the rink and knowing there was a game. But it was definitely a good feeling when I first stepped out there."
What was the year or so like away from high-performance hockey and recovering from injury?
"It was frustrating. Just not being able to play or practice was tough. I'm glad the year has passed because I'd just like to be out there playing games."
Any help from others in the recovery process?
"My own family back home, I could call them. And I had my billet family, who I'm with every day. I had a lot of people in my corner helping me out."
Is there anything you learned from the situation, with regards to body maintenance or injury prevention?
"I learned about recovery and how hard it is to stay healthy. Now with having these surgeries, I'm going to have to stay on top of it. I'm definitely going to have to be doing some exercises to make sure I don't get hurt again. I have some main exercises I do before practices and games that I need to stay on top of."
Nine points already through seven games, safe to say the offensive instinct hasn't changed since the time sidelined?
"I still have the same offensive mindset. Right now, I feel like there's still more to give from me. As I start playing more, I'll be able to see the ice better and start making more plays. Right now, I'm happy where I'm at and I think I'm only going to get better as the year goes on."
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Who are your linemates in Vancouver at the moment?
I'm playing with James Malm and Brendan Semchuk.
Five of your nine points have come while on the power play. How's that success been and what role are you playing in your power-play unit?
"I've been playing in a few different spots. When I first got back I was net-front and most recently I've been mostly on the half wall and on the point a little bit, too."
Which of the man-advantage positions you've played would you prefer?
"I feel like the half wall is where I've been my best so far. That's where I've played most years."
Watching games from up top can sometimes help open a player's eyes. Anything you took away while being an observant rather than participant?
"Yeah, just watching the (Western Hockey) League and watching different players. Seeing how they play, I guess that helps out. Watching from the press box shows you that you have more time with the puck than you actually think."
Anything you want to accomplish as you close out your junior career?
"I want to finish the season. That's one goal in mind for me, is just to keep playing and not having to miss games. There's World Juniors at Christmas that are still on my mind a little bit now that I'm playing more and feeling good. That's still a possibility. Also, to be able to play in the playoffs. I haven't done that yet in junior so I want to make the playoffs this year and play that type of hockey."
You mentioned World Juniors. How are you tackling the prospect of playing for Canada?
"I'm not sure when the camp is or anything but I just know I have to keep playing hard and hope for the opportunity."
What did you gain from Oilers Camp this summer?
"Just the work ethic the players have. I was able to watch them work out, do all their preparation at the rink before they run on the ice and then once they're on the ice, they're always working. They're always working to try and get better every day.