KRAKEN

How good will Seattle Kraken C Matty Beniers be in his first full season?

Jun 2, 2022, 8:30 AM
Seattle Kraken Matty Beniers...
Matty Beniers makes a pass between his legs against the New Jersey Devils on April 16. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Rookie Matty Beniers arrived late in what had been a dismal first Seattle Kraken season and provided a ray of hope.

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He played just 10 games with the Kraken but gave us all a glimpse of what the future holds for Seattle. He scored nine points in those 10 games, flashing offensive skill that is still in its honing stages, and it looks like the Kraken struck gold with their first-ever NHL Draft pick.

What should we expect out of Beniers in a full season? What would be reasonable for him to accomplish in the next Kraken campaign?

At the rate he was picking up points, he would have ended up with 74 over an 82-game season. That would have been tops among all NHL rookies – Toronto rookie Michael Bunting led with 63.

All signs point to Beniers being able to keep his play up. At no point in his 10-game preview did he look like he was in over his head.

“His confidence at such a young age is really impressive,” said Jordan Eberle, his Seattle Kraken lineman. “He kind of stepped in, he didn’t shy away right off the bat. He came in and he played as well as I think he could, so for him I think the biggest thing is just to bring that same confidence into next season and run with it. He’s obviously a great talent. I think the biggest thing that stands out to us on ice is how smart he is as he reads the ice. He sees a lot of plays that a lot of guys don’t. He’s only 19, he’s gonna get bigger and stronger and obviously get better.”

Beniers will need to make adjustments

As talented as Beniers is, he’ll face stiffer competition this coming year. He’ll be game-planned against in ways he wasn’t at the end of this season. He’ll face tougher matchups as teams will start putting their top defensive players against him as much as possible. The 10 games he played were mostly meaningless for all involved, and that will change as next year begins.

He’ll also have to adjust to the schedule. In college, he played fewer games – most NCAA teams play in the low 30s – so playing 82 will be a new challenge. It’s something he got a small taste of by playing the final 10 games.

“We had Friday, Saturday and then you have six days to fix any bumps or bruises (in college), while here you got a game Friday, and then Saturday or Sunday and you gotta get going,” Beniers said. “There’s no time to waste so that was definitely one of the biggest adjustments. But I think that it’s really good to see that and know what’s coming and get acclimated.”

Beniers centered a line with Eberle on one wing and Ryan Donato on the other when he joined the Kraken. It’s unclear who he will play with full-time this coming season. That will ultimately depend on what the roster looks like and what players are added.

Will Beniers click with new linemates as he did with Eberle and Donato? Or, if he remains playing with the same two wingers, will they be able to recapture the chemistry they had over Beniers’ sneak preview.

Beniers’ line ended the season strong, with Eberle scoring thrice in nine games playing with Beniers and Donato scoring twice and adding two assists. Beniers appears to be the type of player who will make those around him better.

How many points can he score?

Beniers was selected by the Kraken second overall in the 2021 NHL Draft and picked up an extra season of development in college before making the jump. It’s hard to predict how many points he’ll score over a full NHL season where he will turn 20 and still be considered a rookie.

In 2020-21, Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov scored 51 points in a 55-game season as an older rookie (he spent a couple of seasons playing pro hockey in Russia’s KHL) and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. The year prior, Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes edged out Colorado’s Cale Makar with 53 points. Both those rookies were defensemen and not the best comparison.

Elias Pettersson, who was a fifth overall pick, notched 66 points in 71 games his rookie season with the Canucks, which is a similar pace that Beniers scored at last season. The high-water mark for rookie scoring over the last decade came in 2017-18 when former Seattle Thunderbirds star Mathew Barzal had 85 points in his first season with the New York Islanders.

Barzal is a decent but not perfect comp for Beniers. Both play center and were first-round picks, although Beniers went a lot higher. That first year for Barzal came on an Islanders team that still had John Tavares for opponents to key on, and it’s likely Beniers won’t have a teammate of that caliber to draw attention.

Perhaps it’s better to look at a player like Nathan MacKinnon, who recorded 63 points during his rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche in 2013-14. MacKinnon has developed since into one of the elite players in the NHL, but that first year he scored at a pace similar to Beniers after joining the Kraken.

Depending on who Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis brings in this summer, Beniers stands a good chance to be the team’s leading scorer. It seems unlikely he’ll match Barzal’s numbers, but could he hit the 60-70 point range? So far, he’s given us no reason to think he can’t.

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How good will Seattle Kraken C Matty Beniers be in his first full season?