In hockey, the new year and its accompanying resolutions begin not in January, but in July. New contracts mean new opportunities and fresh playoff aspirations – and for forward Tyler Benson, joining the Knights organization on July 10 was that first crucial step towards achieving that aim.
“I haven’t really thought too much about individual goals. I’m just looking forward to getting to know the team, the coaches, the staff, first of all,” he said. “The big thing for me is a team goal, we want to be a playoff team this year. Hockey is the most fun when you’re in the playoffs, so that’s what we’re all going to be looking to do.”
Silver Knights General Manager Tim Speltz is equally excited to welcome Benson to the team. Their eyes are both on the Calder Cup playoffs, but Speltz also looks forward to the contributions Benson can make as an individual player – as well as how the Knights organization can help his career growth.
“Tyler’s excited about being a part of this organization, and it’s no different for us. I think when we look at the AHL, it’s developmental for a number of reasons, and I think Tyler’s here to take that next step in his career. I think he’s hoping that he does it with our organization,” said Speltz.
He believes that with the Silver Knights, Benson will have an opportunity to showcase the skills that led him to successful 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons with the Condors. He led the team in assists both years, producing at a point-per-game pace in 2020-21. In Speltz’s eyes, that made him a great fit for the Silver Knights and their ‘develop and win, not or’ philosophy.
“He’s a pass-first guy, he sees the ice very well, so he’s able to make plays – but he’s not afraid to shoot and he shoots well, too. We talked about his vision and his creativity that goes along with that, and that makes him a good playmaker,” said Speltz. “Going into the offseason, we try to find players that are going to complement our young prospects, and I think that Tyler does that very well in a number of ways.”
But Benson’s on-ice ability wasn’t the only thing that the front office took into consideration when looking at Benson as an offseason addition. His character, his work ethic, and his off-ice contributions – dating back to his time with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants – were also of high priority to the organization.
“We’ve got a long history with Tyler going back to his days in the WHL. And obviously with him playing in the Pacific Division, we’ve had a chance to keep close tabs on him, and our pro scouts do a great job with that. Tyler’s always had strong character, and he’s been a leader on every team he’s played on. We want to make sure that we have good people, and Tyler checked all those boxes.”
Speltz also spoke with former teammate and fellow Silver Knights’ offseason addition Adam Cracknell about what Benson could bring to the team.
“We had Adam signed before we signed Tyler, and we checked with Adam on what type of person, player, and character Tyler was. And Adam’s words – he really enjoyed him as a teammate and would love the chance to play in an organization with him again,” said Speltz.
Most important of all was Benson’s enthusiasm about signing with the organization, a mindset that Speltz found a perfect fit with the Knights’ team ethos. It illustrated to Speltz that Benson would be ideal for the culture that they want to build in both Henderson and Vegas.
“I think [his eagerness] means everything. I think we’ve shown as an organization that we promote from within in all aspects. We’re not afraid to give players opportunities, which I think is so important. And we’re not afraid to reward them,” added Speltz. “You can always earn contracts here, we’re not afraid at all to stay with players. Our organization, we employ good people; when they do a good job, we’re not afraid to promote.”
For Benson, the chance to join his teammates here in the Valley can’t come soon enough.
“When the opportunity came this summer that they were interested in signing me, I was really excited about it,” he said. “I’ve been able to play against [the Silver Knights] the past few years, and it’s always been a great place to play as a visiting team. So now I’m able to be a part of it and play at home this year, and I’m excited for it to happen.”
“The rink had just a really great fanbase there. Super loud, a really big crowd there, so I’m excited to join my teammates and play in front of the fans. Can’t wait for the season to start – it’s been a good summer, but I’m looking forward to things kicking off.”