As the preseason comes to a close, and with Andrej Sekera ailing to start the 2017-18 campaign, the Edmonton Oilers may have found a new top-four defenceman in Matt Benning.
Just last year, the 23-year-old blueliner was a NCAA signee trying to prove his worth to the organization, a goal that he certainly seemed to accomplish. In 62 games last season, he had three goals and15 points and was a plus-8. He also racked up 111 hits and 64 blocks during the regular season and was one of the team’s most reliable defencemen.
His success also carried over to the postseason, where he had three assists and 48 hits in 12 playoff games with Edmonton.
Coming off a strong season with the Oilers, Benning has more to prove coming into this campaign, which of course correlates to him earning a bigger role with the team this season.
Moving Up the Lineup
Looking at his game now, he has a lot to offer the Oilers when it comes to moving into a top-four role. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound defenceman is not only reliable and smart with the puck, but he is a big, physical defenceman who can throw his weight around and win battles, get in corners and help bail his team out. He also appeared to gain nine pounds heading into this season, showing that he is willing to put on bulk and add more size to help his performance. Combining that with his puck-moving potential and ability to jump up on the rush, he appears poised to add more offensive edge to his game.
When it comes to earning that ice time with the Oilers, Benning has been showing what is capable of so far this preseason, especially as he has logged more minutes and gotten the opportunity to play alongside Kris Russell, where he will essentially slot in to fill Sekera’s void. In four games with Edmonton so far, he has two assists, 11 hits and four shot blocks.
Overall, while the Oilers are still trying to put together their blue line this season, Benning is making a strong case to join the ranks of the top four heading into this year.