It was not the season Tyler Benson anticipated.
At the start of last year’s Western Hockey League season, the Vancouver Giants captain was generating buzz as a possible top 10 selection for the 2016 NHL entry draft.
But after a cyst was discovered on his tailbone and required surgery, Benson missed the first month of the season.
He also battled osteitis pubis, an inflated pubic bone.
And when he did return, a groin injury and hip flexors limited his mobility on the ice.
“It was just a frustrating year; I just wanted to play hockey. Not being able to do that to my fullest was tough,” Benson admitted.
“And then some lower-body problems, they just kept lingering throughout the year and getting worse and worse,” he said.
“Every game I played, I was playing injured.”
As a 16-year-old rookie in 2014/15, Benson had scored 14 goals and 45 points in 62 games.
He suited up in less than half of last year’s Western Hockey League games for the Giants, but nearly managed a point-per-game with nine goals and 28 points in 30 games.
He only played two games over the season’s final three months.
It was also tough for the captain to watch his teammates struggle on the ice as Giants finished out of the playoffs for a second straight season.
Benson did see his dream of being drafted into the NHL come true however, as his hometown Edmonton Oilers selected him in the second round, 32nd overall.
“It was a special moment. Growing up in Edmonton and being an Oilers fan, it was pretty cool,” Benson said.
With the draft out of the way, Benson shifts his focus on having a healthy and productive season as the Giants begin their first season in Langley at the Langley Events Centre.
“Both years I have been with the Giants, we haven’t made it, so that is our main goal, to get back in the playoffs and compete with some of the best teams,” he said.
And for the team to make that jump Benson will be expected to play a major role.
“We all feel that if Tyler is healthy, and recovered 100 per cent, then he will be a dominant player in the league,” said new Giants general manager Glen Hanlon.
“The overriding theme or thread when anybody talks about him is the compete level and certainly that is always a welcome addition to any team, especially when he is your captain.”
Benson, a six-foot, 200-pound forward, knows a thing or about being hyped.
In his WHL bantam draft year, he averaged a mind-blowing 4.4 points per game after scoring 57 goals and 146 points in 33 games for the Edmonton SSAC Lions, a bantam AAA team.
That led the Giants to pick Benson with the top overall pick.
Hanlon doesn’t think Benson will need to use last year’s frustrations as extra motivation.
“He is a highly motivated player. That is one of the reasons that he was still drafted high in the NHL draft,” he said.
“It is a quality he has carried since he was a young kid.”
Benson will be counted on to help the Giants both at the offensive end, and in all three zones, as Hanlon touted the forward’s 200-foot game.
New coach Jason McKee echoed those thoughts, calling Benson an “all situations” player for the team.
“Ty has obviously had some trials and tribulations with the injuries and things like that. But what is exciting is that he seems to be past that,” McKee said.
“He has all the ability, he has all the tools, he has the demeanour to go with it — he wants to be a player and I think that is what is going to push him, in my opinion, the highest level. He is going to be a huge part of our team.”