The 1st look at Matty Beniers with the Seattle Kraken was quite the show

Apr 12, 2022, 9:44 AM
Seattle Kraken Matty Beniers...
Michigan center Matty Beniers skates during a practice. Beniers is at the Olympics as a member of the U.S. team. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

The doors to the Kraken Community Iceplex were open to the public Monday morning to watch the Seattle Kraken practice. Fans poured in and filled the stands, but they weren’t there just to watch a late-season NHL practice, rather, they were there to see the new guy in action. They didn’t have to wait long as the newly signed Matty Beniers was one of the early players to trickle out of the Kraken dressing room and onto the ice.

Seattle Kraken sign Matty Beniers, team’s first draft pick, to 3-year contract

Hockey fans in Seattle had been on Beniers watch ever since his Michigan Wolverines lost to the University of Denver at the NCAA’s Frozen Four on Thursday. The watch lasted just a few days as on Sunday afternoon, the news broke that Beniers had decided to leave college and sign with the Kraken to begin his NHL career.

With high expectations circling in the air, he was a full participant and while it was just one practice, those expectations may just have increased.

For a 19-year-old who had never met his new teammates prior to Monday’s practice, Beniers looked like he had been in the league for years. He skated fast and with a purpose. He wasn’t starry-eyed and afterward described his first pro practice like it was no big deal because to him, it wasn’t.

“It was good,” he said with a shrug. “I mean, it was pretty fun to have people at the practice. But yeah, it was good. I mean, it’s nothing new, you know. It’s hockey.”

He wasn’t ignoring the weight of the moment as he sits on the doorstep of his NHL career. It was a glimpse of the self-confidence Beniers has. He expected to reach this point.

“You grow up your whole life to play in the National Hockey League,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “And you only get that one opportunity to play your first game so, I’m sure he’ll be excited about it. We’re looking forward to him wearing that Kraken jersey No. 10 and seeing him on the ice.”

Beniers looks ready

It’s easy to be excited about a top prospect. Right now, he’s perfect. He hasn’t turned the puck over, he hasn’t misread a play, or been beaten by a veteran player. Beniers has yet to play a game, but the excitement over him and what he’ll mean to the Seattle Kraken’s future is off the charts.

“Everybody slow down here, let’s slow down,” Seattle Kraken head coach Hakstol said when asked when Beniers would play in a game. “My big thing for Matt is to be able to come into our dressing room, become comfortable in that environment with his teammates, work hard every day and enjoy the process of adjusting to this level. There’s going to be good opportunity here. He’s going to have to work for that opportunity just like anybody else does. Let’s walk before we run.”

Easier said than done when Beniers was at center Monday, playing on a line with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Donato.

He was fast and maybe the fastest player on the team, and he made plays at top speed, pushing the puck up ice. Beniers set up linemates Monday, won puck battles, and looked like he’d been playing NHL hockey for a decade.

Playing with Donato and Eberle was purposeful. Eberle is a solid veteran that Beniers can learn a lot from and Beniers has some familiarity with Donato from off-season training in Boston, where both are from.

Adding him at the end of the season is not an attempt to salvage this year as the Seattle Kraken long ago ran that ship aground. This is all about the future, starting next season when Beniers projects to be a big piece of the Kraken puzzle.

“Just learning from the guys around me, the coaches and getting that experience playing in those first couple NHL games,” Beniers said about what he expects out of this initial run. “Getting your legs under you and kind of getting the feel for where you’re at. I think it’s a great opportunity that I’m able to be here and be around these guys and practice with them. You know, learn from their habits the way that they plan, prepare, take care of themselves, things like that.

“I’m definitely fortunate to be here and to get that experience so that, next year comes around and you’re ready, you’re ready to go. You know how you got to prepare, you know how you got to be, you know what you’re jumping into, so, yeah, I’m excited.”

When is he going to play and how good can he be?

Perhaps the No. 1 question on everyone’s mind Monday was when would Beniers debut and is he ready?

Neither Hakstol, Beniers, or Francis would offer up a Beniers debut day so that remains a mystery of sorts. The Kraken are in Calgary Tuesday, at Winnipeg Wednesday, before coming home to play the New Jersey Devils at Climate Pledge Arena Saturday.

If you’re the type that likes to connect dots, then perhaps Beniers’ admission that his parents would be at the game Tuesday night might indicate that they think he’s playing right away.

By now we’ve seen plenty of Beniers, who has played games on big stages. We’ve seen what he can do in college, at the World Juniors, World Championships, and the Olympics. Will that help him handle the NHL at 19 years old?

He thinks so and points to the Olympics as a great primer for him.

“I think the biggest thing that I took out of that, the game’s a little faster, a little bit more physical,” Beniers said. “I think those two things… are gonna be good for me tomorrow and making sure that I’m as physical as I can be. as well as my battles. I think the physicality piece is pretty big and also just remembering to play my game and use my tools… So, you know, using my abilities to create space, make plays, and hopefully, I can do that tomorrow for the team.”

Again, if you’re one of those people that enjoys conspiracy theories, you’ll notice twice Beniers said ‘tomorrow’ which would be Tuesday.

Whether his debut is in fact Tuesday in Calgary, or some other game, a new era of Kraken hockey is here, and the franchise hopes he’ll become everything they hoped for when they took him second overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.

“He’s a guy that we believe is going to be part of the Kraken family for a long time,” Francis said. “We continue to see him get better and better as he’s done at every level he’s played at. He’s got the character and the determination to go out there and compete on each and every night. We think he’s somebody that our fans are going to really enjoy watching and we expect him to really enjoy playing in Seattle and I know we didn’t win a national championship but maybe there’s a silver thing that we can share together at some point down the road. That’s what we’re all here for.”

No pressure, kid.

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The 1st look at Matty Beniers with the Seattle Kraken was quite the show