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ROOKIE CAMP: Woodcroft says Benson 'looks fantastic' early in Camp

"When he feels confident, his natural skills and natural abilities come out. His numbers speak for themselves," said Woodcroft

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - Seamless.

That's probably the best way to describe Tyler Benson's transition to the pro game.

In junior, Benson captained the Vancouver Giants in three of his four seasons with the club, tallying 184 points in 190 career WHL games - his last two seasons with Vancouver saw the winger average well more than a point per game.

However, no one questioned his talent. It was his ability to be on the ice that was the concern.

Benson battled numerous injuries in his junior career, including spinal issues and groin and shoulder injuries that lingered during his tenure with the Giants.

Thankfully for the Edmonton native, that wasn't the case in his first year of pro hockey, suiting up in all 78 games for the Bakersfield Condors in the regular season and playoffs.

"He's got to feel real good about a few things," said Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft. "Number one, the fact that he was healthy for the entire year. He was healthy, he put in a great summer last summer and he reaped the benefits. That's a kid who put in the work in order to feel confident.

"Confidence is earned. That's something we would say in Bakersfield, that you earn the right to feel confident. It comes from the work you put in during the summertime, it comes from your daily process, how you take care of yourself away from the rink, how professional you are and your work habits."

Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Woodcroft 09.06.19

While Benson enjoyed a productive rookie season in the American Hockey League - registering 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 68 games - it didn't come without personal adversity. From mid-November to late December, the six-foot winger went 17 games without scoring a goal.

"What I liked about it was he worked his way out of that situation," said Woodcroft. "He worked his way out of it at that level. Now he has the foundation of how to overcome some personal adversity of not scoring a goal for a certain length of games.

"Then, in the second half of the season, he shot the puck a lot more. He was a threat."

After being named to the All-Rookie team with his teammate and roommate Shane Starrett, Benson went on to be a key piece for the Condors during their 2019 Calder Cup playoff run. While Bakersfield was eliminated in the Pacific Division Final, Benson's skill and confidence was on full display this past spring.  

"When he feels confident, his natural skills and natural abilities come out," explained Woodcroft. "His numbers speak for themselves. What I like about him is that there was personal growth in his game as well. Benson's overall game was a huge plus as well. I was comfortable putting those kids against anybody.

"Look at him out here (in Rookie Camp), he looks fantastic. Just like a lot of the other forwards that are going to compete to make the Edmonton Oilers, he's got to feel real good about his opportunity."

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