As is always the case, the Canadian team at this Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup is filled with players that are projected to be first-round draft picks at the NHL Entry Draft. One of those players this year is left winger Tyler Benson (pictured, 17). Benson hails from Edmonton, Alberta and is coming off his rookie season in the Western Hockey League with the Vancouver Giants, where he impressed with 45 points (14 + 31) in 62 games as a 16-year-old.
That was enough to get him onto this Canadian team, which won its first two games against the Czech Republic and Sweden by scores of 3–1 and 2–0. While the team had clinched first place in Group A, some wondered about the lack of goal scoring from a team so loaded with offensive talent. Benson himself was without a point, though had played well defensively along with the rest of his team.
On Wednesday the team exploded for a 9–2 win over Switzerland. Benson led the point parade with 1 goal and 3 assists, showing the playmaking ability he displayed in the WHL last year, with some nice set-ups. After the game, he expressed satisfaction in the way the team is progressing, and confidence about the next couple of games – the semi-final against Russia on Friday and a medal game on Saturday.
Tyler, the game against Switzerland wasn´t important for the standings, but it must be nice for the team to show what it´s capable of offensively.
Yeah, in the first couple of games we were playing hard and had lots of chances, but just couldn´t find a way to put pucks in. But today our hard work paid off, we got a nice early goal and things just kept rolling.
And for yourself, personally, it must have felt nice to put up some points.
I think any time you get some points it adds confidence. It feels good and obviously we want to get contributions from everybody.
What do you think about the way this team is progressing as the tournament goes on?
I think we´re getting better every day together. We´re bonding well and I think we´re going to come out strong in the next two games. We play Russia in the next game and I´m looking forward to it.
After three games in three days you now get a day off. What do you do to get ready for Friday?
I think we´re just going to recover and practice – maybe just a half-hour skate – and get ready to play the Russians.
For you and for the others on the team, this is the start of a big year coming up. Do you think at all about the attention that´s going to be on you and the draft next summer?
I guess it´s always in the back of your head that it´s coming up, but you just try not to think about it too much. It´s a big year, I guess, but you´ve just got to play your game and be yourself. You don´t go trying to be a different player – you´re not going to have success.
What are your goals for this season coming up?
As a team (Vancouver Giants), we didn´t make the playoffs last year so we want to that´s what we want to do this year. And personally I just want to have a good year, get my game together, and get drafted in the first round.
Good luck with that and thanks for your time.