Name: Tyler Benson
2015-16 Team: Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Stats: 30 GP, 9 goals, 19 assists, 28 points, 46 PIMs
Future Considerations Ranking: 29th
NHL Comparable Player: Alex Killorn
How do you properly evaluate a prospect that was injured for most of the year, and wasn't at 100% for most the games that he did play?
That's what a lot of scouts are asking about Vancouver Giants forward Tyler Benson.
Benson came into this past season with a lot of hype. The 1st overall choice in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Benson had an excellent rookie season for a struggling Giants team in 2014-15, putting up 45 points in 62 games. He also earned a spot on Canada's roster for the IIHF U18s despite being a year younger than most of the other players on the team.
One month after a strong showing at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament the well-rounded, mature, hard-working Benson, at just 17 years old, was named the captain of the Giants heading into 2015-16 season.
However, Benson's draft ranking, widely considered as potentially Top 10 for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft at the time, was significantly hampered by injury troubles.
He had a cyst on his tailbone surgically removed in September, which caused him to miss the first month of the season, and then sustained an undisclosed lower-body injury in December that caused him to miss even more time. He had 17 points in 13 games up to that point.
With the injury still plaguing him, Benson and the Giants decided to shut down his season in February for the sake of his long-term health.
But because of that, just how far is he going to fall down the draft board?
Benson is undoubtedly a very talented hockey player. He's not particularly flashy in any ways, but offers a complete, reliable, 200-foot game. He's very stocky for his frame of 5'11" and 196 pounds, which allows him to protect the puck well in the offensive zone and play something of a power game. He controls the puck down low and can both use his vision to set up his teammates for scoring chances as well as take the puck hard to the net himself.
What truly makes Benson special, though, is that he has an elite hockey IQ for a player of his age, which could make him a versatile, all-situations player at the NHL level and an excellent complement on a skilled line.
Said former Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel, who previously coached Benson with the Giants:
"He thinks the game at a really good level. He has a tremendous feel for where people are. His pursuit is excellent. He’s physical, he’s strong on the puck. He plays with a lot of will. His mind is really sharp.
"You put him, for example, with a Sidney Crosby or a Steven Stamkos? Those guys think at a different level than others. He’s got some really good game."
The big question, of course, is whether or not these injuries will be just a temporary thing, or if they are a sign of problems that will recur in the future. Any team that drafts Benson will need to do their full homework on him beforehand and be willing to take a home-run swing on a prospect that could be a big steal where they draft him, but could also potentially never pan out due to health concerns.
The Stars could be one such team. They have a lot of high-end prospect talent already in the system, and thus, the flexibility to take on such a gamble if they really wanted to. Getting a potential Top 10 talent at 25th overall would be an enormous win.
Plus, drafting a two-way left winger with a power game that grew up and played in British Columbia is always a nice bonus when they have Jamie Benn to learn from.