'Best I've felt in a long time': Oilers rookie Tyler Benson finally feels healthy

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'Best I've felt in a long time': Oilers rookie Tyler Benson finally feels healthy

'Best I've felt in a long time': Oilers rookie Tyler Benson finally feels healthy

Oilers prospect Tyler Benson is smiling from ear to ear these days, and who can blame him.

For the first time in years, the 20-year-old can finally say he's got a clean bill of health

"This is the best I've felt in a long time, and the most confident I've felt," said Benson, who was drafted by the Oilers in the second round in 2016.

The young left winger has been skating for the last two weeks alongside NHL players like Jake Debrusk, Matt Benning and Jason Chimera at Perry Pearn's 3 vs 3 Pro Camp in north Edmonton.

"I feel now that I'm healthy and ready to go," Benson said. "I think I can prove myself a little bit more, and I think I can show people who I actually am."

The Edmonton native wrapped up his junior career with the WHL's Vancouver Giants last season with 27 goals and 69 points in 58 games.    

'Tough few years'

That was big improvement on his previous two seasons with the team, when he played only 63 games in total, collecting 20 goals and 70 points.

Benson entered the league with huge promise. He was drafted first overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, coming off a record-breaking season where he scored 146 points in 33 games with Edmonton's Southside Athletic Club.

But three major injuries derailed what was expected to be a stellar junior career.

Benson needed surgery during the 2015/16 season to remove a cyst on his spine. While still recovering from that, he developed osteitis pubis, a condition so painful he couldn't even walk.

Then in the 2016/17 season, a shoulder injury and sports hernia surgery shut him down after just 33 games.

"It's definitely been a tough few years," said Benson. "I know the end goal for me. And what I've always dreamed of is, I want to play in the NHL. So that's what I'm always working to do, and trying to get back as healthy as I can. I know once I'm healthy, I can compete with anyone and hopefully earn a spot this coming camp."

Despite the health questions, the Oilers took a chance on Benson in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, selecting him 32nd overall.

'I think he's skilled enough'

Pearn has been an assistant coach in the NHL with five different teams over the past 22 years.

He started holding summer camps 28 years ago. Before he trains the pros, Pearn and his coaches hold camps for bantam, midget, and junior players.  

Not long ago, Benson was one of those teenagers at camp, turning heads with his silky skills.

Now he's skating in his first pro camp, and Pearn credits the young man's mental toughness for continuing to chase his NHL dream.

"He's done a great job fighting through the things he's had to deal with, from an injury standpoint," said Pearn. "Certainly I think he's skilled enough that at the next level he's going to have a chance.

"It'll be incumbent on him to continue to improve. But he's been very good here the two weeks he's been here. You see his skill, you see the things that made him a really, really good player all through his career to this point."

Benson will be back on the ice later this week for the Oilers rookie camp, which kicks off Thursday.