The latest National Hockey League player from St. Albert is continuing a family tradition.
Matt Benning of the Edmonton Oilers is following the same professional path as a defenceman as his father Brian, who played 18 games for the Oilers in 1992/93 during a nine-year career, and his uncle, Jim, who spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks during a 610-game career and who is now the general manager of the Canucks.
Benning’s grandfather, Elmer, is also an amateur scout with the Montreal Canadians.
Benning, 22, made his NHL debut Tuesday against the Maple Leafs and was in the lineup Thursday against the New York Rangers.
“It was definitely exciting,” Benning told Oilers TV after the 3-2 overtime loss at the Air Canada Centre. “I was a little nervous in the first period but I settled in pretty quick.”
Benning had 20 shifts for 13:51 minutes of ice time, registered two shots and was plus one on the night while paired with Darnell Nurse.
“The guys in the dressing room kind of prepped me for this,” Benning said. “They have a bunch of really dynamic forwards out there so you’ve got to be careful not to look at the puck because they will make you look stupid so just moving my feet was the big thing and trying to make clean passes out of the zone.”
The former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider of the St. Albert Raiders Hockey Club and Spruce Grove Saint of the Alberta Junior Hockey League logged 14:11 minutes during 23 shifts against the Rangers and was minus one in the 5-3 loss at Madison Square Garden.
Benning wore Ales Hemsky’s old No. 83, the first time any Oiler had that number since the winger was dealt to the Ottawa Senators in 2014.
Benning was on the Oilers’ roster when the season started after a strong training camp. He was assigned to the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League on Oct. 17 and four days later was recalled from the minors after recording one goal and one assist with the Condors.
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2012 in round six and 175th overall, the six-foot, 203-pound blueliner signed a two year entry-level contract with the Oilers in August as an unrestricted free-agent from the Northeastern University Huskies. In three seasons with the Hockey East division one Huskies, he posted nine goals, 56 points and 56 penalty minutes in 110 games.
Benning also spent one season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League before going to Northeastern.
Benning is described as a stay-at-home defenceman in the same mould as his father, who played 568 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers and the Oilers.
Benning’s brother, Mike, is also captain of the undefeated Sabres and is the top-scoring defenceman in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League with seven goals and 21 points in 12 games.