WHL Next Generation is a 22-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2019-20.
Team: Victoria Royals
Weight: 178 pounds
Draft: VIC (2018) Round: 1 (#13)
For the Victoria Royals, hometown-product Nolan Bentham was the perfect choice to use their first-round selection on in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Not only is he a skilled defenceman, earning the position of 13th overall, but adding a local-grown prospect to your list can boost your fan’s morale surrounding the team.
For Bentham, it was a dream come true to be picked by his hometown team.
“It was pretty special to be drafted to Victoria,” Bentham said. “Growing up there, watching the Royals all throughout those years it was just a very surreal moment for me and my family.”After completing a season in midget with the Yale Hockey Academy Prep Lions of the Canadian Sports School Hockey League (CSSHL), Bentham will have the opportunity to turn his dream into a true reality.
“I want to make the team and help the team out as much as I can,” Bentham said. “I will play whatever role I can to support them.”
Playing different roles on the team is also a learning curve Bentham adjusted to this past season with the Yale Lions.
“I had a shoulder issue that I was dealing with throughout the year, that kind of came on stronger at the end of the year,” Bentham said, “but I trusted my trainers and physiotherapists to know I was in good hands.”
Unfortunately, injury is something every athlete will go through at some point in their career. While injuries can sideline development and cause frustration among athletes no matter the sport, there are numerous benefits that can outweigh the negativity. As Bentham mentioned, trust between a player or physiotherapist is paramount and the sooner younger players learn that the more mature they become when injuries happen. Focus and drive often increase in athletes during an injury to assist them in getting back to their sport as soon as they can in a healthy way. Although teams can be disappointed by key players’ injuries, it can allow them to become stronger after adapting to the challenges the injuries may have caused. For Bentham’s team, the Yale Lions, they found this strength.
“We really came together,” Bentham said. “We probably weren’t the most skilled team, but we really improved from the start of the season to the end. Heading into the playoffs we were the 10th seed and we lost in the semi-finals. So, it was a big improvement.”As for Betham’s contribution to the team, the 6-foot-2, 178-pound blueliner put up 18 points (7G-11A) in 26 games. He also attributes his success to a trusting relationship between his trainers, physiotherapists and teammates.
“It [his injury] was something that I overcame personally, but with help,” Bentham said. “I finished the year really strong.”
After his change in roles this season, Bentham hopes the adversity he faced will benefit him when it comes to making the Royals’ roster for the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season. But he knows that’s not the only thing it will take to make the team, so he’s been preparing in other ways.
“I’ve been working on my skating and skill work this summer, I think that’s really important,” Bentham said. “It sounds cliché, but I have been working on everything this summer because I’m still a developing player.
“At camp, you learn really quickly that when you are playing against those older players that you have to be a lot stronger, tougher and more skilled – really your whole game just has to be better. I’m excited to show them that I have made those changes in my game.”