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 - If you ask Tyler Benson about his goal coming into Oilers Training Camp, one thing becomes crystal clear: he feels mentally and physically ready to make the jump.
"My goal is to be with the Oilers this year coming out of camp," Benson said in a phone interview with EdmontonOilers.com. "It's what I've been training all summer for and working out hard to do. I want to be able to show myself fully in camp and try to stick with the club as long as I can.
"Hopefully, be able to stay for the year."
In 2016, Benson was drafted by his hometown team in the second round of the NHL Draft. Born and raised in Alberta's capital city, the six-foot, 190-pound winger's roots are deep in the community.
Benson is still the Bantam AAA all-time leading scorer in Edmonton - a city where he also hopes to make his childhood dream of suiting up in an NHL game come true.
Video: AUDIO | Tyler Benson Interview 08.19.19
"For me, it would be a very special moment to be able to play here in my hometown," said Benson. "All of my friends and family are here, so being able to have them come out and support me at a game would be an unreal feeling.
"Just growing up, playing hockey and cheering for the Oilers - being able to put that jersey on and play in an NHL game - it would be a surreal feeling."
And if last season was any indication, he won't have to wait long.
In his first full pro season, Benson recorded 66 points (15G, 51A) in 68 games to lead the Bakersfield Condors in scoring. His 51 helpers during the 2018-19 campaign were the most by an AHL rookie, helping Benson earn AHL All-Rookie Team and AHL Second All-Star Team honours.
"I'm very happy with how (last season) went. It was a good season all around, team-wise and individually," explained Benson. "Things were going well for me and we just had a great team to be around. They all meant a lot. Great coaches that taught me how to be a professional, so it was a good year and I'm just happy with how it went.
Added Benson on the differences between pro hockey and major junior, where he spent four full seasons with the WHL's Vancouver Giants: "The pace of play is probably the biggest difference, the guys are on to you that much quicker, you don't have as much time with the puck to make decisions, so you've really got to be thinking quick out there on the ice and then when you do get into the corner - guys are a lot stronger. You're playing against men, so the age difference is quite different and everything is just a step above."
Video: THE DRILL | E11: Condors Round 1
But it was Benson who was often stepping above in big moments for his club.
The forward enjoyed a productive post-season with Condors, scoring seven points in 10 playoff games, including the biggest goal of his career to date.
Down 2-0 in the Pacific Division Finals and with just 11 seconds remaining on the clock, Benson shovelled in the game's equalizer to send the game into overtime. The Condors would go on to win the game.
While the team would ultimately drop the series to the San Diego Gulls, experiencing the highs and lows of the playoffs will prove to be a catalyst in his personal and teammates' developments, says Benson.
"It was an exciting year. It was a disappointing finish but we were definitely happy with how we played. Being able to win our first series against Colorado and seeing how much it takes to even just win one series, you have to be able to do that four times to win a championship. Losing was tough but we were happy with how we played. It was a good year and a really good teaching point for us.
"Having that little experience is going to help a lot. Knowing what it takes to win each round and how much preparation you need to go into each game, it takes a lot out of you and you've got to make sure your body is ready for that kind of physicality and that many games."
And now, through battling injuries in his junior career to scoring big goals in the Calder Cup Playoffs, it is Benson who feels ready to make the team and stick in the NHL come October.