Just how good can Matty Beniers become for the Seattle Kraken?
Prior to the Kraken home opener against the Vegas Golden Knights, each player on Seattle’s roster was introduced and lined up on the blue line. The loudest cheer wasn’t for Yanni Gourde, or Jared McCann, or Brandon Tanev.
Instead, the fans let teenage rookie Matty Beniers hear it the most.
While surprising that a kid who up to that point had 12 NHL games under his belt was already this popular, it also made sense. The Kraken’s first-ever draft pick, taken second overall during the 2021 NHL Draft, has played well in his brief career and he has the potential and the hope of being a special player.
He has the look and poise of a superstar, but just how good can Beniers be?
Beniers arrived in Seattle last spring, after leading the University of Michigan to the Frozen Four as a sophomore. He signed his contract and played in the Kraken’s final ten games and the city’s love affair began then.
He scored nine points (three goals, six assists) in those ten games – games that the Kraken averaged nearly half a goal more than before he arrived. Coming into this season, he’s still qualified as a rookie, and the soon-to-be 20-year-old is considered a favorite for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
“It’s definitely going to be hard and it’s gonna be interesting to see how hard it gets throughout the year,” Beniers said prior to opening night. “You start playing every other night. Your body really starts taking tolls, you get a little nicks and injuries and we’re trying to play through that. Hopefully, I’m able to stay healthy throughout the year and I think that would probably be a big help and then just taking care of your body off is big.”
He’s looking forward to the challenge of playing the longest season in his hockey life and added 12 pounds of muscle to prepare for it. His work ethic and preparation are just more reasons to be excited about his future.
Beniers mania increased this season, starting with his first multi-point game on opening night in Anaheim – he scored a goal and an assist. He’s played 15 NHL games and has scored four times with nine assists for 13 points and his jersey is worn throughout Climate Pledge Arena.
How good can Beniers be?
In the lead-up to Beniers draft year, he was often compared to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. One of the best defensive forwards maybe ever, Bergeron plays at both ends of the ice and while he’s won multiple Selke Trophies – awarded annually to the league’s top defensive forward – he also has offensive acumen. Bergeron has topped the 30-mark six times and can be counted on to at least score 20.
It’s not a bad comparison and Beniers does work at both ends of the ice.
As good as Bergeron is, Beniers appears to have the potential to be a little higher skill level. It’s almost foolish to say after 15 games that Beniers is better at anything than a future Hall-of-Famer but the potential is there.
‘Potential’ is the key word with Beniers. Everyone knew he was a good player, he was drafted second overall, but the offensive skill was perhaps a bit of a surprise. He scored four goals in the preseason and all four were scored in different ways.
As for a comparable, the Bergeron comparison is still viable but perhaps Beniers will be a slightly more offensive version, which would be remarkable and put Beniers in some rarified air. It’s fun to daydream about potential and hope that Beniers will drag the Kraken where they want to be but he still needs to go out and do it.
It’s not going to be easy and there will be nights that things don’t go well – he’s been held pointless in the last two games – and he’ll have to adjust.
Beniers getting noticed
The league may not have known how good Beniers could be when he joined Seattle last spring and was caught off guard.
They’re noticing now.
Prior to the Kraken’s game with Carolina Monday, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’amour was asked his opinion of Beniers.
“Pretty dynamic player,” Brind’amour said. “His skills are off the charts. You see that he’s got great pace and plays with a lot of confidence. He looks like he has been around a long time and you can’t teach that. It’s the kind of stuff the great ones all have.”
That’s high praise from one of the top coaches in the NHL whose team is a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
With that praise comes attention and opposing game plans and that’s going to contribute to it being hard for Beniers this season. He’ll have to adjust to tougher competition, again, something he also feels equipped to do.
Logic says that he’s still learning and it’s perhaps too soon to compare him with players like Bergeron. But logic and rational thinking are not as fun as daydreaming, hyperbole, and hoping that Beniers turns into that kind of player, or better.
There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming about a future “C” on his jersey and making all-star game after all-star game, winning NHL awards, and maybe, just maybe one day lifting the trophy of all trophies.
For now, let’s all enjoy watching a promising player taking his first steps into becoming an NHL star.