by Lisa Brown on 10/23/13 at 12:30 AM ET
The Edmonton Oilers added 8 forwards and only 2 defencemen to their list of prospects this summer. The first of course was Darnell Nurse, but the second, added with far less fanfare was Ben Betker of the Everett Silvertips.
Playing in Edmonton with the Everett Silvertips, Betker knew what to expect from any media requests, he knew it was going to be Oiler talk for the first little bit. But it was something he was delighted to talk about. "It was definitely life changing for sure. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into the draft, but I couldn’t be happier to come a place to Edmonton. They really take care of their players and it’s just a big treat!"
Betker enjoyed the development camp oppertunities, working with the other prospects, the trainers and especially the coaching staff in Edmonton. "[camp] was great, it was something that I was really wanting to do for some time now is trying to just work on my skills and get professional feedback from guys. It was great to come up and skate for a week or so and then to come back for main camp was very impressive. I was very impressed how they do things here.
"The fitness training was pretty tough. I know that that on-ice test was something that I had never done before and it was funny, we actually did one a couple days after when I got back down to Everett, we did something very similar. I was a little bit better on that one just because I knew what to expect, but it’s a little bit tough and it’s tough to get in shape for that stuff."
But Betker may have been more prepared for what the coaches dished out in Edmonton this summer than other prospects; "We have a pretty similar coach down here in Everett. He’s very demanding. He demands that you are in shape. He’s hard on guys and he demands perfection so it actually turns out great that I can work on that for when I get to come up here."
Of course that doesn't mean that Betker came into Oilers development camp without needing to work on anything. As a 6th round, 158th pick, Betker will be a bit more of a project than Darnell Nurse. Still, with his large 6'5" frame and hard hitting physical game, there will be a lot of upside if Betker can beat the odds and play a significant professional career.
Leaving Oilers' camp, Betker did receive some feedback, "They would like to see my coordination come in a little bit more, be harder to play against, just meaner all of the time consistently. My quick feet, I think that I’m a pretty good skater but just to be quicker in the corners, quicker on pivoting is something that I need to work on as well."
Last season, through 68 games Betker had 1 goal, 5 assists, 100 penalty minutes and a -21 rating. Betker will not be an offensive defenceman, no matter what coaching and development is made available to him. But Betker can play a tough game, he can stand up for himself and his teammates.
"I would say that I’m defencive minded player, I take of my own end first and foremost. I do have an offensive side, but definitely try to shut the top lines of the opposing teams down first and that’s the type of thing that I work on every day in practise."
Ben Betker (5) defending his turf against Oil King Mitch Moroz (29)
Aside from the physical and technical training, Oilers' development camp, and the Oilers' prospect system in general has several benefits. One of those has to be the friendships bonded through gruelling workouts, on ice work, and of course cooking and life classes offered by the team. "Any time you spend weeks at a time with guys, especially just living out of a hotel you’re going to lunch, you’re going out to breakfast, you’re going out to dinner, you’re just always with them and riding the bus to the rink, whatever it may be. It definitely form a little bit of a friendship. I didn’t know Mitch Moroz at all before heading into any of this and we’re pretty good friends now."
Betker should not be expected to make much of a splash this season, not many defencive defencemen ever do. The best he can hope for is not to stand out in any given game, that is after all his goal, to be doing his job and not coughing up pucks. The Oilers will have a couple of years yet to watch and see how Betker develops before having to make any decisions, but sometimes late round picks and surprise, sometimes late round picks can work out better than early round picks, it's all just a wait and see game.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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