FUTURE WATCH | Ben Betker
Oilers prospect Ben Betker has made strides in his offensive game this season and looks to eventually make a push to compete with the team's growing defensive talent pool
|Photos by Christopher Mast.
Ben Betker finds himself in a much better state of mind now than he was at this time in 2013. As the then 18 year-old defenceman patiently awaited the draft, he was uncertain as to whether or not he would be selected by a team.
A late push due to increased production and physical play, at the end of his season with the Everett Silvertips, put him on the radar and gave the Edmonton Oilers reason to select him 158th overall, in the sixth round, of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“It was a huge relief,” Betker said. “Going into that day, I was extremely nervous because of the uncertainty. It was very exciting. I knew it was a huge day for my family, they were all very excited and I was really happy to go to the Oilers as well.”
Betker, a 6-foot-6 blue liner, says there was some pre-draft interest in him by the Oilers staff. But, it took that late push to convince the team to invest.
“I had one small meeting with one of the Oilers scouts… I just think I really picked up my physical play and being harder to play against and taking care of my own end first. I did that the last half of the season and that really helped my draft stock.”
The defenceman has taken the next step in his development this season, showing marked improvement in his offensive production and physical demeanour on the ice. It took some time for the 19-year-old prospect to grow into his big body. Since beginning to settle in, he has improved other areas of his game as well.
“I think what I do need to work on is a little bit of coordination, but that will just come with time. I’ve only been 6-6 for maybe two years. Over two years, I grew about six inches. I was actually looking at it the other night. It’s just getting that down. My puck skills have gotten better, my passing, my heads-up play on the offensive blue line has gotten way better and I’m having a lot more fun this year.”
Betker has 12 points in 44 games with Everett in the WHL, a career-high in that league. He has four goals this season, besting his one-goal season in 2012-2013.
“Maybe opportunity, confidence,” he said of his increased point-production. “I think just reading the plays better, knowing the right time to jump up. I’ve been working on my shot for a long time now. I’m off the ice, I’m on the ice. I’m just getting pucks to the net and they’re either tipping them in or they’re finding their way in so it’s been nice to see my numbers go up this year.”
The big blue liner says that could be the area of his game that has taken the biggest leap.
“I think that could be. I’m definitely always trying to be harder to play against. From last season, I really didn’t have that much offensive output. But I think this season, my offensive ability, whether it’s getting pucks to the blue line or skating the puck from my end to their end, reading rushes, offensive things and stuff like that has probably been my biggest improvement.”
Betker is a focused young-man who has his eyes on his future. He has set personal goals for the close of this season and looks ahead to next year and a chance to compete for a spot in the professional ranks.
|Photos by Christopher Mast.
“This year I would say, to help this team get home-ice advantage in the first round. I know we’ve got a couple things going. We’d like to hang a banner here, we think we have the squad for it. Personally, I would like to get somewhere around 20 points, I’d like to have my plus-minus at at least a +10. It’s not where it should be right now.
“Going into next year, I definitely want to make an impact. I would like to make a push to make the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton’s American Hockey League affiliate). I think with the right off-season and the right weight gains, that’s something on my mind and something I think about going into practice everyday. It’s trying to get better everyday to make that push next year.”
Betker joins a crowded crop of blue line prospects in the Oilers organization. Edmonton has invested much,recently, into the future of their defence. It will be a challenge for the former sixth-rounder to compete and earn a spot, and one he is relishing.
“That’s something I always look forward to, testing myself. I kind of treat every game like that, as just another test. You practice all week and practice however long you can and every game is just another test. That whole Penticton (rookie tournament) experience I had, was just another eyeopener for sure. I think there was 18 defencemen there and I was the only guy that wasn’t signed, so it’s definitely not a small task. That’s for sure.”
As the Oilers look to continue developing their young talent and translating potential into winning, their draft picks will play a bigger role in the near future. It is something that a player like Betker can look forward to.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a franchise like that, that’s trying to come out of this rebuild. I follow you guys on Twitter, I follow it on TV and stuff and everybody just wants to get over the hump of that rebuild. It’s cool to try and be a part of that. My goal is to come in, in two or three years or however long it will take me in Oklahoma, to be a part of that finishing touch on the defensive end. That’s definitely a goal of mine and something I think about.”
Barons Player Stats | AHL Standings | Barons Schedule | Past Prospect Stats: 2012-13 | 2011-12
Stats Updated as of Tuesday, January 14, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. MST
|d||19||44||4||8||12||-6||64||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|f||19||43||25||24||49||25||36||CALGARY HITMEN (WHL)|
|DARNELL NURSE||D||18||43||10||28||38||1||70||SAULT STE. MARIE (OHL)|
|F||18||42||24||15||39||-1||38||VANCOUVER GIANTS (WHL)|
|f||19||33||12||15||27||7||33||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|F||19||43||25||18||43||20||95||EDMONTON OIL KINGS (WHL)|
|F||18||39||9||8||17||-4||14||LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL)|
|2||1||1||2||-2||0||OWEN SOUND ATTACK (OHL)|
|F||24||26||4||6||10||5||63||JOKERIT HELSINKI (FINLAND)|
|F||19||43||2||2||4||3||10||NIZHNY NOVGOROD (RUSSIA)|
|26||19||6||10||2||2.89||.912||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|LAURENT BROSSOIT||20||7||2||4||0||3.53||.885||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|21||4||1||1||1||3.15||.914||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|22||13||n/a||n/a||n/a||3.30||.894||HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)|