“At first I did a little bit, just because I wanted the Ducks to be out,” Benning said on Inside Sports Monday night.
Benning, 23, enjoyed a fine rookie season with the Oilers in 2016/17. After making a splash at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton in September, he played just two games in the minors before being called up to the Oilers for good in October.
Listen to Matthew Benning on Inside Sports with his dad, Brian, and sister, Abby, who plays defence for the U of A Pandas:
In his first five games, he went up against starts like Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby, and John Tavares.
“You kind of realize and pick up on the things they do and how to defend that,” Benning recalled. “At first, I was kind of in awe of the players I was playing against. Then I kind of realized around game 20, hey, I can play. I can defend these guys.”
Benning said he benefits from having a father, Brian, who also played defence in the NHL. His dad taught him a lot about making the right reads and making quick decisions. That’s helped Benning settle into his role with the Oilers.
“It’s pretty obvious we have a good group of forwards who can do a lot with the puck. I thought my job was pretty simple,” Benning explained. “All I have to do is move the puck up to those guys, regardless of where they are on the ice.”
Benning is now well into his off-season training program, working out at Rogers Place with teammates Mark Letestu and Cam Talbot. He knows expectations will rise for him and for the team as he heads into his second NHL season.