The Seattle Kraken’s inaugural first-round pick, Matty Beniers, has left the University of Michigan and signed his entry-level contract (ELC). The future, and the expected franchise cornerstone, has officially entered the deep.
It’s been a common theme that one of the biggest problems for the Kraken this season has been asset management, whether it’s losing players to waivers when they could have potentially been traded, or ice time allocation. In light of that, let’s dive into how head coach Dave Hakstol should utilize him over the team’s final 10 games.
Beniers’ Hockey Year Thus Far
Prior to signing his ELC, Beniers suited up for three other teams this year. He was second on the Michigan Wolverines with 20 goals, and first with 43 points, in 37 games. He also suited up in a game for Team USA at the World Junior Championship prior to its cancellation, and notched an assist. Finally, he scored a goal and an assist in four games with Team USA at the Olympics. For a more in-depth look at his resume, check out this article by THW’s Adam Kierszenblat.
Kraken Should Play Beniers in All Situations
The Kraken need to realize the situation they’re in with Beniers. They’re out of the playoffs, and they have five home games left this season. This is their time to showcase him to their fanbase to get them excited for next season before this one even ends.
He’s a versatile player who’s shown that he can play top-line minutes at various levels. On top of that, he can play in all situations, and be trusted to see big minutes in important moments. This was evident in his playing just over three minutes in overtime during Team USA’s Olympic loss to Slovakia in the quarterfinals. Suffice to say, he should be the first-line center for the remainder of the year.
The Kraken have been near the league’s basement for special teams for most of the season, as their power play sits at just a 14.1 percent conversion rate. Jared McCann leads the team with eight power-play goals, but the next three closest players are tied at three, one of which isn’t even on the team anymore. Beniers led the Wolverines with 10 power-play goals this season en route to being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist.
He should find ice time with the first power-play unit. They’ve scored one power-play goal in their past 10 games, so what do they have to lose? Throw him into the deep. Let him share the ice with the team’s best offensive players, and allow his vision and creativity to take over in full force. He’ll have McCann and Jordan Eberle to finish when he sends a pass, or he can fire a shot himself from Vince Dunn or Alexander Wennberg.
Similarly, the team’s penalty kill has been ineffective. They have just a 75.1 percent success rate;,so essentially 1-of-4 power-plays-against are going to result in a goal. Beniers can help that, considering he’s been compared to Jonathan Toews, the 2012-13 Frank J. Selke Award winner.
Toews has been a prototype for elite two-way centers throughout his career, and hockey IQ, playmaking, and work ethic are some of the traits that he and Beniers share. That should lead him to become a valued asset on both sides of the puck. It also speaks even more to his potential to be a leader on this team in the future.
While we’ve decided to throw him into the deep on the power play, he should take a step back and start with the second penalty killing unit. Link him up with Yanni Gourde and see if the two can establish some chemistry help find stability. The Kraken are at a sub-80 percent kill over their past 10 games.
Kraken & Beniers Have a Bright Future… So Let It Begin
Kraken faithful have a lot to look forward to over the team’s final 10 games, and through the start of the offseason. They’ll have a shot at another highly rated prospect due to their standing ahead of the NHL Entry Draft lottery. Franchise-first captain Mark Giordano is now a Toronto Maple Leaf, opening the door for Beniers to potentially be the future captain, as many suspected once he was drafted.
Related: 3 Kraken That Fans Have Fallen in Love With This Season
After sporadic call-up appearances on their fourth line throughout the year, Kole Lind has finally seen both a raise in and consistent ice time. It’s translated, as he’s upped his point total from two to five, and been a noticeable player for them. Considering the team’s standing, that’s not something that should be overlooked.
Henceforth, it’s essential that Hakstol gives him every opportunity to grow and learn. Their games only really matter in terms of draft lottery seeding, and for players playing for another contract. If they want to play spoiler, go for it, but you’ll want your top prospect to be helping lead the charge in that.
This is the start of Beniers’ NHL journey. If team brass really wants to show their commitment to this team’s future, they’ll give him the chance to show the fanbase just how special of a player they have. The time is now.