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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 / EdmontonOilers.com

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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ROSTER REBOOT: Tyler Benson

Fresh off a successful rookie pro season, forward Tyler Benson looks to crack the Oilers opening night lineup come October

by Tony Brar / 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 - 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

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BLOG: Klefbom preaches patience with Broberg

"We all know what he's capable of being a high draft pick and all that, but you really need to focus on what's best for him," said Klefbom

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Oscar Klefbom shares a lot of similarities with one of the newest members of the Edmonton Oilers.

Both were born and raised in Sweden - their hometowns are just over an hour apart. Both play defence. Both are first-round draft selections of the Orange and Blue.

And like Klefbom, Philip Broberg will also spend his first season as an Oilers prospect back home in Sweden.

The eighth-overall pick at the 2019 NHL Draft elected to stay in his home country and will suit up for Skelleftea AIK (Swedish Hockey League) for the 2019-20 season rather than make the move overseas and join the Hamilton Bulldogs (Ontario Hockey League).

For Klefbom, it's a decision he can relate with. 

"It's tough from the organization's standpoint. You really want to be patient with those guys," said Klefbom in an interview with EdmontonOilers.com. "We all know what he's capable of, being a high draft pick and all that, but you really need to focus on what's best for him.

"It's really easy to be an Oilers fan in North America to just take him over so we can see him, but it's so different to come from Sweden or Europe to adjust, play the smaller ice surface, find a place to live, move from your hometown and not see your family for nine months. It's a big step for him."

Klefbom, who has amassed 122 career NHL points (29G, 93A), played in 44 games for Farjestad BK from 2011-2013 before making the jump to North America, suiting up for the Oklahoma City Barons for 48 games before making his NHL debut on March 11, 2014, in the city where he was drafted. The veteran of 316 NHL games knows how significant of playing an extra season on home soil can be first hand.

"For me, it was perfect," said Klefbom. "I couldn't have put myself in a better spot being in a great organization in a really good league in Sweden to mature and play a lot of ice time and have a lot of responsibility. It was a great deal for me and it was a good solution for Edmonton too, I think. Playing with Farjestad, it was a great organization to grow and get more confidence in handling the pressure.

"I think it's a good choice for him because he's a big guy and can probably play a lot of minutes and take on a lot of responsibility. It's going to be fun to see how he steps up in the Swedish Hockey League and it's going to be interesting to follow him over the next couple of years. He looks really good on the ice. Very smooth. Hopefully, he's going to be a key piece for us in the future."

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ROSTER REBOOT: Sam Gagner

After appearing in 25 games for the Oilers last season, the 29-year-old looks forward to competing under Head Coach Dave Tippett once again

by Tony Brar / 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 - In a summer where Sam Gagner has focused on "being a dad" off the ice, the crafty playmaker has been working hard to make strides on it.

Literally.

The 29-year-old has primarily used this off-season to further his skating to keep up with today's NHL.

"You see how fast the league is getting," said Gagner before his appearance at Oilers Hockey School in St. Albert on Monday. "You just want to continue to try and work on your speed and work on your pace. That's something I've tried to do all summer.

"I'm looking forward to getting started and getting to camp. It's felt like a long off-season. With the way my season went last year, only playing about 30 games in the NHL, I'm excited for the opportunity to come in and compete."

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BLOG: Neal relishing fresh opportunity with Oilers

"I play my best hockey around guys that can move the puck. There's lots of good things happening here," said newly-acquired forward James Neal

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - When asked about making the move up Highway 2, newly-acquired forward James Neal kept it simple:

"It's a fresh start."

The former 40-goal scorer is one of 38 players in NHL history to begin their careers with 10 consecutive 20-plus goal seasons. 

Tweet from @EdmontonJack: Consider the kind of elite company James Neal was in just a year ago...one of 38 players in NHL history to score 20+ in his first 10 seasons, and one of only 7 whose careers began within the last quarter century (Ovy, Kovy, Kane, Toews, Tavares, Vanek).

Elite company indeed. 

However, following his first and only season in Calgary, which saw him record seven goals and 19 points, Neal is looking to bounce back and prove his 2018-19 campaign was an outlier. 

"Obviously, Calgary was a tough go," said Neal in a phone interview with EdmontonOilers.com on Saturday. "It was hard last year and we'll have a great year this year. I'm just looking forward to next season.

"We'll just look forward from here on in."

Video: AUDIO | James Neal Interview 07.20.19

With players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, all of whom have the ability to play the centre position, it seems Neal's shoot-first mentality is a natural fit in the Oilers top six. The addition of Neal will also allow Head Coach Dave Tippett to be more versatile when deploying his lineup. 

"Wherever I'm slotted, I'm going to do my best," said Neal. "I play my best hockey around guys that can move the puck. For me, I'm a shooter and I do my best hockey when I'm getting open and finding fresh ice.

"There's lots of good things happening here."

And when asked about the prospect of playing with his good friend Connor McDavid?

"I'm just trying to skate as fast as he can. We're stride for stride," laughed Neal.

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BLOG: Holland's management style on display in first trade with Oilers

"My management style is to talk to all my key people," said Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland following Friday's trade

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - It's no secret: communication is key for Ken Holland.

On Friday, the Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager pulled the trigger on a trade that will see a 31-year-old James Neal make the move to Northern Alberta. 

In a package that included Milan Lucic and a 2020 conditional third-round round pick going to Calgary, Holland leaned on his management style in his first trade with his newfound club.

"My management style is to talk to all my key people," said Holland during a phone interview with EdmontonOilers.com on Friday. "Certainly I talked to [Assistant General Manager] Keith Gretzky and I talked to [VP of Player Development] Scott Howson. I talked to [Director of Pro Scouting] Archie Henderson and obviously, I talked to [Head Coach] Dave Tippett. I spoke with Ken Hitchcock and Bob Nicholson, who then talked to Daryl Katz, our owner.

"We've had lots of internal conversations. I've talked to a lot of people in our organization over the last few weeks and eventually worked our way towards today pulling the trigger on the deal. We're excited about the deal, and I'm hoping James can come in and play great and provide some more offence for us."

While the internal conversations were strong and aplenty, as the age-old saying goes, it takes two to tango.

In this case, Holland and his trading partner, Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, maintained consistent dialogue about a Neal/Lucic swap for a number of weeks.

"He and I were talking on and off in the lead up to the draft, so middle-to-late June," said Holland. "It heated up here over the last 10 days, then early this week it got cranked up to another level. We had to ask Lucic to waive his No-Movement Clause, which he obviously did, so a few weeks.

"Some trades go quick, some trades take time."

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BLOG: Conditions of Neal trade explained

Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland explains Flames will receive a 2020 third-round pick if two conditions are met

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - On Friday, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland acquired forward James Neal in exchange for Milan Lucic and a 2020 conditional third-round pick. 

The conditions are as follows: 

  • Two conditions have to be met for the Edmonton Oilers to send a 2020 third-round pick to the Calgary Flames
  1. Oilers forward James Neal has to record at least 21 goals in the 2019-20 season
  2. Flames forward Milan Lucic scores at least 10 fewer goals than James Neal in the 2019-20 season
  • If only one or none of the conditions are met, the Edmonton Oilers will not be sending a draft pick to the Calgary Flames as part of the July 19th trade

Holland on the conditions of the trade: "You look at the money they're both making with term, and it's similar money. Then you look at the different structures, and there are two different structures. There's a completely different structure on the Neal contract than there is on the Lucic contract.

"Calgary appears to have their top-six set in stone more than the Oilers do at this time when you look at the year they had last year and the players they have, so there's a little bit more opportunity for someone to come in here to Edmonton and play on some of the power-play units and play with some of our offensive players. The deal was put into place factoring in the opportunity, the structures of the contracts, and ultimately we worked our way to the deal because it has to work for both sides. It can't be a deal that's one-sided; it has to be a deal that both feel good about.

"So certainly, Brad Treliving and Ken Holland feel good today that they were able to put together a deal that's beneficial to both teams."

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DRAFT: Broberg welcomed by McDavid

Moments after being selected eighth overall, Philip Broberg was welcomed to the Edmonton Oilers by Captain Connor McDavid

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

VANCOUVER, BC - "I'm just going to take it all in and I'm just so happy to be an Oiler right now."

The newest member of the Edmonton Oilers couldn't hold back his excitement after being drafted eighth overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.

For Philip Broberg, wearing the orange and blue will kickstart a string of new things to come in his near future.

A new home. A new team. And eventually new teammates, including Connor McDavid, who is the only player in the National Hockey League to record 100 or more points in each of his last three seasons.

"Right now, he's the best player in the world," said Broberg of McDavid. "Obviously, his speed is a great aspect of his game.

"One day, I hope I will play with him."

Tweet from @EdmontonOilers: Captain Connor welcomes Philip to the #Oilers organization! pic.twitter.com/NF7MQz26On

In a showcase of his leadership, the Oilers Captain texted the Swedish defenceman on Draft day, congratulating him and welcoming him to the Oilers family.

"It's from McDavid," said a smiling Broberg when looking at his messages shortly after being drafted. "He said, 'Hey bud, it's Connor McDavid. I tried to call you a couple of times but it won't go through. Congrats man, I'm looking forward to getting to know you. Have fun tonight and see you soon.'"

Along with the message from McDavid, the Swedish rearguard also highlighted a special moment on the stage that he soon won't forget: shaking Wayne Gretzky's hand while donning the Oilers jersey for the first time.

"It was awesome. He's the GOAT," laughed Broberg. "That was obviously an experience."

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BLOG: Nicholson's global vision

"We're certainly going to look at different hockey opportunities globally. We're also going to look at other sports. None of it is in stone yet but we're going to work on it," said Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club Bob Nicholson

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Just seconds into a press conference on Monday morning, Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club Bob Nicholson made it clear: "change is certainly here."

Moving into a new role with the Oilers Entertainment Group, Nicholson introduced Tom Anselmi as the President of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer of the Edmonton Oilers and ICE District on Monday.

Nicholson, who has been with the organization for five years, feels the hiring of Anselmi, "really gives us more strength and power going forward." The addition will also present opportunities to grow the Oilers Entertainment Group brand globally in the coming years - a vision held by Owner Daryl Katz.

Video: 1-ON-1 | Bob Nicholson Exclusive

"We're going to look at other sports, not only in North America but globally over the next little while," said Nicholson on Monday. "A lot of it is just in the works. We're certainly going to look at different hockey opportunities globally. Expanding what we can do in hockey with various leagues and other areas we can work on - we brought in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, we brought the World Junior Hockey Championships in.

"We're also going to look at other sports. With Daryl, we've talked about a lot of different options. We're looking at what we can do in Edmonton and also what we can do globally. None of it is in stone yet but we're going to work on it. This (hiring of Anselmi) is going to give us more horsepower to do that in the future. We're now going to expand that search."

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BLOG: Starrett makes most of his 'one opportunity'

"I had one shot, played well and that led to more opportunities to play and the season I had," Starrett told Bob Stauffer and 630 CHED's Oilers Now on Wednesday afternoon

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

In his first full American Hockey League season, goaltender Shane Starrett made significant strides in his personal development while providing an instant impact for his club.

Enough to earn a one-year, two-way contract as the Bellingham, MA, native re-signed with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

Starrett was considered a critical piece of the Bakersfield Condors success this season, helping the franchise earn its first AHL playoff berth and the best record in the league's Western Conference.

Video: CONDORS | Shane Starrett 05.15.19

With a 27-7-5 record, a .918 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average, Starrett cemented himself as the team's starting netminder midway through the campaign by "earning his way there," as put by Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft.

"I knew I was going to get my one opportunity eventually," Starrett told Bob Stauffer and 630 CHED's Oilers Now on Wednesday. "When I wasn't playing as much, I was working with Sly (Condors Goaltending Coach Sylvain Rodrigue).

"He said, 'We're preparing for you to get your chance. You're going to get a game here, you're going to get a chance to show what you have. We want you to be ready for that chance because that opportunity will lead to more.'

"That's what kind of happened - I had one shot, played well and that led to more opportunities to play and the season I had."

The goaltender was one of two Condors named to the AHL's All-Rookie Team during the 2018-19 campaign - a season which also saw Starrett play in eight playoff games (3-3-0, 2.89 GAA & .889 SV%).

Video: CONDORS | All-Rookie Roomies 05.01.19

Just two seasons removed from playing at the Air Force Academy in college, Starrett says continuous improvement in "the different reads between the pro and college level," and "tightening up the technical side of goaltending" will be necessary heading into the 19-20 season.

"I'm just looking to go to training camp and be the best I can be and be ready for the opportunity," said Starrett. "I don't know what's going to happen over the course of the summer (in regards to the Oilers back-up plans), but I'll be preparing for training camp.

"I'm going to give the best effort that I can."

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