Seattle Kraken take Matthew Beniers at No. 2 as team’s 1st NHL Draft pick
The Seattle Kraken have made their first NHL Draft selection, and after how things shook out with their expansion draft on Wednesday, the direction they went with the pick should be no surprise.
The Kraken took University of Michigan center Matthew Beniers with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 draft, with general manager Ron Francis announcing the pick live from the Space Needle with Climate Pledge Arena, the team’s future home, visible in the background.
Seattle went heavy on defensemen and goalies in the expansion draft, leaving forward an obvious need going into Friday’s amateur draft. Beniers, 18, had been heavily rumored to be the Kraken’s choice heading into Friday’s draft.
With the Buffalo Sabres taking Michigan defenseman Owen Power at No. 1, he and Beniers become the first active college teammates selected first and second overall in an NHL Draft, according to Chris Peters of Hockey Sense.
“There’s so many words I can use describe it. It’s surreal. It’s honestly amazing. I could not be happier, and I’m honestly at a loss of words just thinking about what just happened,” Beniers said. “Being drafted in the first place, going second overall and going to a new expansion team, I’m so unbelievably excited and thankful for everything.”
Beniers sounded likely to return to Michigan, saying there is a desire to have a normal college season after last year’s truncated schedule. But he said there would be discussions with Francis and the Kraken front office on what is the best decision.
“I want to have a real year. I want to try and make a run at the national championship,” Beniers said. “Obviously, if that’s not the best decision for my development and me as a hockey player then so be it, but I think those are kind of some perks, something that I kind of want to do. But I think at the end of the day it’s kind of what is the right thing for me to do as a hockey player and as a person.”
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 24, 2021
A look at Beniers
The 6-foot-1, 174-pound Beniers is coming off a strong season with Michigan, scoring 24 points (10 goals and 14 assists) in 24 games with the Wolverines. He also posted a plus/minus of 21, meaning his team scored 21 more even-strength or shorthanded goals than it gave up with him on the ice.
In 2019-20, the lefty-shooting Beniers had a great showing with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, scoring 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 16 games.
The Hingham, Mass., native was committed to Harvard but instead went to Michigan after Harvard opted to sit out the 2020-21 hockey season.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 24, 2021
What the insiders say
In the days and weeks leading up to the NHL Draft, a few hockey insiders shared their thoughts on Beniers on the 710 ESPN Seattle airwaves.
John Buccigross, who was tapped to host the NHL Draft broadcast on ESPN2, told Jake and Stacy on Wednesday that he thinks Francis, who made the Hockey Hall of Fame after his playing career as a center, would see a lot to like in Beniers.
“You know, a lot of times bosses will hire people who remind them of themselves,” Buccigross said, “and I think Ronny Francis is going to look at Matty Beneirs and say, ‘He reminds me of myself. I played both ways, I’m good at everything I do – not great at anything but good at everything.’ … He’s going to be just the perfect guy for the Kraken’s first pick.”
Buccigross added on the ESPN2 broadcast that Beniers is a likely “future captain” in the NHL.
Jon Morosi of the NHL Network, a weekly guest talking both hockey and baseball on Wyman and Bob, suspected Beniers would be the Kraken’s selection not long after it was revealed in June’s draft lottery that Seattle had the No. 2 overall pick.
“Tremendous motor. He brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm,” said Morosi, who as a Michigan native who closely follows Wolverine hockey is plenty familiar with Beniers. “… Tremendous competitiveness, great integrity, great motor, great shot. I think he’s going to eventually be a goal-scorer in this league.”
Mike Salk of 710 ESPN Seattle also weighed in with his thoughts of the Beniers pick Friday night.
Beniers it is!!! Two way C are such an important part of building a championship team. Most recent Cup winners have had guys like him. Love it.
— Mike Salk, 710 ESPN (@TheMikeSalk) July 24, 2021
How NHL Draft picks work
The NHL Draft is a different animal from the other drafts in major league sports. Morosi gave an explanation Thursday on Wyman and Bob.
“In hockey, you will sometimes see 18 year olds in the league – it’s rare but it does happen – and you do see typically a few 19 year olds,” he said, adding that it’s similar to how the NBA Draft used to work. “… It’s much more typical that the player will be drafted, his rights are kept for a number of years, and the player will typically go back to his college team if he’s an NCAA player or his junior team if he’s a Canadian player. Some of the players you’re going to see drafted have already played what amounts to professional hockey in Sweden or Finland or the KHL in Russia, and they will go back to that team who has the rights for a year and then come over. … I would say of the 32 first-round picks, and this year’s a unique year, I don’t think that we will see more than one or two at the very most in the NHL this coming season, at least to start the year.”
While Beniers is likely to play another year for Michigan, Morosi wouldn’t be shocked to see him in a Kraken sweater by the end of the team’s first season.
“He’ll play this year at U of M, I would expect, and at the end of the year they’ll make a decision – do you want to sign in March or April when the season is over? Because you can sign immediately. … You can play your year for your college team and then sign right away, which is what Cole Caufield did, and he was a star player for the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals (this year). I think we could see that happen potentially for the Kraken’s top draft pick, and maybe we see a Matty Beniers make his NHL debut sometime in April or May.”
Just the first round of the NHL Draft is scheduled for Friday, with Rounds 2-7 set for Saturday beginning at 8 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More Seattle Kraken coverage from 710Sports.com
• Seattle Kraken schedule released: See the inaugural season here
• The Breakdown: A close look at all 30 Kraken expansion draft picks
• Chris Driedger: ‘No-brainer’ joining Seattle Kraken on new contract
• NHL insider Frank Seravalli: Kraken will be ‘difficult to play against’
• Kraken expansion draft: Side deals absent, salary cap clear priority
• NHL insider Chris Johnston: Expect several Kraken trades after draft