Friday, January 8, 2016

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Tyler Benson

Welcome back to today's installment of 2016 draft-eligible players.

Today we look at:

Tyler Benson
Height: 6’0"
Weight: 201 lbs
Position: C/LW
Shoots: Left
Team (League): Vancouver Giants (Western Hockey League)
ISS rank: 19
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 19
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: 15

Current Statline for 2015-2016 Season:  28 GP, 8G 18A 26P 40PIM, +0, 0.93 Points/Game

The 1st overall selection in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Tyler Benson entered not only the WHL, but this season with remarkably high expectations. After being one of the league's best rookies in his innaugural 2014-2015 WHL campaign, Benson also competed for Team Canada at the 2014-2015 World U-18 Junior Championships along 2015 draft eligible players. In 7 games, Benson scored 4 points (1G 3A). In August before the start of the 2015-2016 WHL season, Benson competed with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Benson was tied for the lead in points for Team Canada with 5 points (1G 4A) in 4 games.

Touted as one of the most prolific midget/bantam scorers in Alberta hockey history, Benson has been thrust into a leadership role with the Vancouver Giants at a very young age. At 17 years-old, in just his 2nd season in the league, Benson is already wearing the "C". Benson has made steady improvement with each passing season, and has helped solidify himself as a solid power forward prospect with excellent finesse skills for the upcoming draft in June. Benson's game consists of excellent speed, skating and balance along with physicality, vision and IQ. Benson missed the first few months of this season recovering from surgery for a lower-body injury.

Benson has a remarkable toolbox and an NHL shot. He's a heavy shooter but can distribute the puck incredibly well. When he was in midget/bantam hockey the word "generational" was thrown around, especially as he would surpass all the critical scoring records in the Albert Major Bantam Hockey League. Despite a slow start back from his injury, he's now on pace to surpass the PPG pace (currently has 26 points in 28 games) playing on one of the bottom teams in the WHL (Vancouver has 35 points on the season, last place in the Western Conference and in 5th to last place in the league). Recently, Benson was named to the CHL Top Prospects Game, hosted by the Giants on January 28th.

To me, Benson is absolutely going to be an NHL-player. The biggest question will be in what role and capacity will he play. He is physical and aggressive on the puck and away as well. His two-way ability has been progressing to the point where I believe his floor is a 3rd-liner. In fact, as his two-way game progresses, that's the area where I feel he needs to improve. His goal-scoring ability is already phenomenal and will continue to improve, and I believe he has elite passing ability. His ceiling is a top-line, offensive forward. I use the term "offensive" simply because he is just as much of a goal-scorer as a play-maker.

Whichever team drafts Benson will have to be patient with him. At this point, he will require at least another year in the Dub to help improve his consistency and his overall play. In a sense, Benson reminds me a lot of a Taylor Hall type player: a strong skating winger with incredible creativity with the puck - albeit at not as high of a level as Hall. A criticism of Benson's play is that he  sometimes looks a little lazy when he's not engaged in the game. I would argue that it's the other way around. Sometimes Benson tries to do too much, and is better when he doesn't focus his efforts on physicality, despite being the Giants' most physical forwards most nights (the Giants do lack size and physicality up front for the most part - with exception of Radovan Bondra).

I like what Tyler Benson brings to the table; he's your typical tough WHL power-winger, and I think as his game continues to progress and improve, he will be coveted at the draft. I can see him going anywhere from 11th to 25th overall. I know that's a wide margin, but we've seen high-potential WHL forwards recovering from lower-body injury drop from their projected spots at the NHL Draft (Barzal for example). However, that being said I believe Benson will be taken 17th overall.

From a Devils perspective, I think Benson would be a perfect fit. Benson plays with a "relentless" mindset and is dangerous on the attack. In fact, he really fits the bill well on what head coach, John Hynes, is trying to instill in the new system with "fast, attacking, and supportive" play. Despite great development from some forwards within the prospect system, the Devils' still have dire need for top-6 potential forward prospects, and I believe Tyler Benson would fit that need perfectly. I don't know where the Devils will end up drafting this year, but if they do end up with a top-10 pick, then I can see GM, Ray Shero, attempting to trade up to snag Benson if he does become available in the later first round.
I am very interested in following the rest of Benson's season in Vancouver, and I hope he can become the top-tiered talent he has the potential to be. I hope you enjoyed my write-up of Tyler Benson! If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see my write about, please let me know!

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