July 23, 2021, was an auspicious occasion for the Seattle Kraken as the franchise participated in its first-ever NHL Entry Draft. The Kraken had the fortunate opportunity to make the second overall pick in a draft class that was top-loaded with players like the highly-touted Owen Power and Luke Hughes whose brothers were both previously selected in the top ten.
With the team’s first-ever draft pick, they selected a fast, puck-moving center from the University of Michigan coming off a point-per-game freshman season in Matty Beniers. With the first month of college hockey nearly concluded, Beniers has been making the most of his opportunity on a Wolverines team looking primed to compete for a championship. Being named an alternate captain in his second season with Michigan and solidifying himself as the team’s top center, he has been impressive through the first month of collegiate play.
Beniers Producing in All Situations for Wolverines
Beniers has been a key player for the Wolverines throughout the first month of the collegiate hockey season in several different areas for the University of Michigan. Aside from centering the top line and serving as the sole underclassman of Michigan’s four alternate captains, the sophomore has wasted no time consistently producing on the score sheet for the Wolverines. Beniers has points in five of Michigan’s seven games so far this season with a goal and two assists on the power play and an assist in 4-on-4 play during last night’s win over Wisconsin.
Beniers’ success hasn’t been limited to the collegiate level either as he represented the United States in both the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championship and World Junior Championship in 2021, skating away with two points and a bronze medal in the World Championship and three points and the gold medal in the World Juniors. Beniers has brought his dynamic world-level playmaking to a Michigan team this year that stands near the top of the collegiate circuit after the first month of play.
Beniers Just One of Michigan’s Top-Level Talents
Past being a dynamic player for the Wolverines in his own right, Beniers finds himself on a 2021-22 Michigan team that is filled with top-level talent and some of the NHL’s most highly-regarded prospects. This year’s Wolverines team features four of the top five selections from the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Beniers has regularly found himself playing on the same line as fifth-overall pick Kent Johnson and often shares power-play time with the other two making up Michigan’s core of young stars.
Also playing alongside Beniers is the player picked just before him at the top of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Power. Power has been dynamic in the opening seven games of his sophomore season, scoring two goals and eight points for the Wolverines including a four-point night in Michigan’s 6-1 trouncing of Lake Superior earlier in October. Power has brought the offense from the back-end in his second year with Michigan with a 16 shot count that falls only behind captain Nick Blankenburg for Wolverines defensemen.
Of the other top five picks playing for Michigan, Luke Hughes in particular is one member of a trio of brothers who have all been selected highly in recent NHL drafts. The oldest brother, Quinn Hughes, currently plays defense for the Vancouver Canucks after being selected seventh overall in 2019 and the middle brother, Jack Hughes, was the first-overall selection of the New Jersey Devils in 2019. Luke has shown to be no slouch either, already recording seven points in the first seven games of his freshman season with the Wolverines.
Beniers and Michigan Eyeing a Big 10 Championship and Beyond
Behind the strength of their highly-touted core, the University of Michigan has stormed into the 2021-22 Division I men’s hockey season as one of the teams to beat in college hockey. The Wolverines are currently second in the weekly USCHO Division 1 Men’s Hockey poll receiving seventeen first-place votes and sitting only behind the St. Cloud Huskies. Buoyed by their strong opening to the season, Michigan has been in the top 3 of the weekly polls since the beginning of the 2021-22 season even taking the top spot in the previous week’s poll.
Throughout the early portions of the season, Beniers has consistently been a top-line presence for Michigan aiming for its first national championship since a Wolverines team backstopped by former NHLer Marty Turco defeated Boston College in 1998. He will look to build on his strong start as Michigan heads into tonight’s contest against the Wisconsin Badgers at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Beniers will look to provide the same level of offense that saw him tally an assist in last night’s 3-0 shutout against the Badgers.
Michael Ingram is a long-time hockey fan and avid writer covering the Seattle Kraken. Born and raised in the rural North Country of New York, he has been writing a personal blog on everything from anime and games to hockey for five-plus years and has even dabbled in a bit of fiction.