Though the Edmonton Oilers lose a bit of an edge with Andrej Sekera injured, they did not search for more defence in free agency. Instead, they will move forward and put trust in their young d-corps.
With Kris Russell likely taking Sekera’s role, there is a spot open on the right side of the second-pairing. Matthew Benning is the next in line to take on that role and appears ready to take on top-four responsibility.
First off, Benning had a remarkable transition from the NCAA to NHL. The 22-year-old experienced little bumps in the road as he adjusted to the NHL and finished his rookie year strong. He skated an average of over 16 minutes per night and has shown durability and versatility through the lineup. With his experience and ability to adapt to new roles, he should have no problem eating bigger minutes and taking on more responsibility.
Next, his skill-set and potential allow him to move up the lineup. Though Benning put up just three goals and 15 points through 62 games, he averaged .87 points per 60 shows great puck-moving acumen. He is a solid passer and can move the puck up the ice, while not being afraid to jump up in the rush. In addition, Benning has an underrated shot from the point and could stand to shoot the puck more, while he could serve as an asset on the power-play
Defensively, he plays a solid, sound game. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound blueliner uses his physicality and size to his advantage; he averages 6.5 hits per 60 and racked up 111 hits this past year. In addition to his hard-hitting game, Benning can block shots and also serve as an asset on the penalty kill.
Overall, he plays a solid game at both ends of the rink and is developing into a quality NHL defenceman. That being said, he is certainly ready to see top-four minutes.