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ROSTER REBOOT: Matt Benning

The 25-year-old blueliner is hitting the ice early this off-season to build off his strong performance late in the 2018-19 campaign

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EdmontonOilers.com is checking in with Oilers players and prospects in our Roster Reboot series as they discuss their summer activities and gear up for the 2019-20 season.

EDMONTON, AB - The ice doesn't melt in the summer for Matt Benning.

The Oilers defender isn't letting destination weddings or the midsummer sun from getting in the way of his off-season regimen.

Despite a trip to Hawaii for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' marriage ceremony and another upcoming wedding for former Oiler Ryan Strome, Benning's used the summer months to continue skating and working out as much as he can to start 2019-20 with some carryover momentum from '18-19.

Video: Matt Benning at Hockey School

"It's kind of been a little bit of wedding season for me," Benning said at Oilers Hockey School on Tuesday. "I'm going to an ex-teammate's this weekend, (Ryan) Strome, and then I had Nuge's in Hawaii and that was great. That's kind of the only place I've travelled. 

"I've tried to stay as local as I can to stay focused on skating and training."

Staying local for the St. Albert, AB, product means putting in time on and off the ice at Rogers Place where the 25-year-old works out with fellow local Oilers prospects Tyler Benson and Stuart Skinner, as well as veteran Kris Russell. 

Benning appeared in 70 games last year, scoring five goals and 12 assists for 17 points. The former sixth-round pick of the Boston Bruins felt he performed his best near the end of the season when he picked up three goals and six points while averaging more than 15 minutes of ice time in each of the last 14 outings.

"I want to start the season how I finished," Benning, who has 14 goals and 53 points in 205 career National Hockey League outings, said. 

"A lot of it is mindset." 

The biggest hurdle early in a season is getting re-acquainted with NHL competition, Benning believes. To mitigate that, the defenceman wants to hit '19-20 in midseason form by getting as comfortable on the ice as early as possible.

"Early on in the season, it's about getting used to how it is playing again," he said. "People don't believe me when I say that but with four or five months in the off-season, you lose that (playing comfort) a little bit and even when you skate, there's not much contact. 

"I'm focusing on just getting into it right away, getting my edges set and pivoting correctly. A lot of little things that players, when they're on, they're doing those sorts of things."

The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder hasn't communicated too much with the new members of Edmonton's management group, including President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland, Head Coach Dave Tippett and new Assistant Coaches Jim Playfair and Brian Wiseman, but wants to make a good first impression nonetheless.

"Besides a few handshakes and small talk conversations, I don't know much about them but I'm excited about the future," Benning said. 

"It's a new start. I think guys this summer are focused on coming in and starting on the right foot."

Benning's paid attention to the off-season moves made by the Orange & Blue and understands that he could be partnered with someone new on the blueline. It will be an adjustment but one the three-year veteran is looking forward to.

"For me, it's just focusing on getting some chemistry with whoever I'm playing with," Benning said. "As a young guy coming in, you don't want to step on any of the older guys' toes. There are a lot of guys that have a bunch of years of experience on me but that doesn't mean I'm not going to push for their spot. 

"I want to do the best I can for the team and I think that keeps everybody on their toes and pushes everybody."

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