It was almost pre-ordained that Michael Benning was going to be a
defenceman, and a good one.
After all, it seems pretty much every branch of the Benning family tree
includes a talented rearguard.
Michael has a brother, Matt, who is into his fourth season with the
Edmonton Oilers, and a sister, Abby, who is a fifth-year senior with the
University of Alberta, with whom she won a U SPORTS national title in 2017.
Both are defencemen.
His father, Brian, played 568 NHL games with St. Louis, Los Angeles,
Philadelphia, Edmonton and Florida from 1985-95, uncle Jim – currently the
general manager of the Vancouver Canucks – spent 610 games across nine NHL
seasons with Toronto and Vancouver, and uncle Mark was a standout at
Harvard University who played a couple seasons of pro hockey in Germany.
All three were defencemen.
So would he really want to be anything different?
“When I was younger, I wanted to be a forward,” Michael says. “I kept
telling my dad that, but he wouldn’t give up.”
Sticking with the family business has worked out pretty well for Michael, a
2020 NHL draft prospect and University of Denver commit who is wearing the
Maple Leaf this week with Canada West at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge.
He comes into the tournament with a little bit of hype. After posting 40
points in 27 games with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior
Hockey League, Michael was
highlighted by NHL Central Scouting as a player to watch and
featured by The Hockey News in a pre-tournament article.
Just don’t expect a few more sets of eyes and a few more words on a page to
change the way he plays.
“There are scouts everywhere these days and I’m not a big social media
guy,” Michael says of the attention. “I just try to be the best I can be.
I’m playing with good players, so I want to use that to my advantage.”
Advice like that has been – and still is – a staple of his upbringing. With
Michael in Sherwood Park, Matt and Abby playing in Edmonton and Brian at
home in St. Albert, family dinners happen as often as schedules allow,
giving Michael plenty of opportunities for brain-picking.
“They’ve been through every situation,” he says of his family. “They guide
me, they tell me what’s going to come up, they help me prepare for it.
They’re good teachers on the ice and off the ice, so it’s nice to have.”
Michael also gives a lot of credit to his late grandfather Elmer, a
legendary scout who spent 47 years with the Montreal Canadiens and
convinced the Habs to select Carey Price in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
“He was my one of my greatest influences,” Michael says of Elmer, who
passed away in December 2018. “He was always there with positive feedback.
Things I don’t see on the ice he saw from the stands, so he was always a
great help with the little things. He was so positive and such a people
But for all the advice they give and all the experience they have, one
accomplishment has eluded the Bennings – an international gold medal. Brian
finished fourth in his lone trip to the IIHF World Championship in 1993,
the closest a family member has come to the podium.
Michael wants to change that, and give himself a few bragging rights at the
“I’m the youngest and I’m a little bugger, so when I get something they
don’t have I like to rub it in their face and say ‘Look at this,’” Michael
says with a laugh. “It’ll be nice [if we can get it done].”