Kraken Up

With A Calder Trophy And Playoff Experience Under His Belt, Matty Beniers Is Ready For A Stellar Sophomore Season In Seattle

Matty Beniers had a short to-do list heading into the offseason after his first full NHL campaign that saw him play in 80 regular-season games, lead the Seattle Kraken into the playoffs and win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

“I’m going to go home, and I’m gonna relax,” the Hingham, Mass., native announced after wrapping up his team exit meetings. “I’m gonna go on my boat. I’m gonna see my family.”

It seemed like a reasonable request after the 20-year-old survived the longest hockey season of his career. His longest previous run, he guessed, was a combination of 50 collegiate and international games. Between the Kraken regular season and playoffs, he appeared in 94 games, missing only two games due to injury.

“I would say I was pretty lucky because I know it’s difficult for everyone, especially young guys, to stay healthy,” Beniers said. “I was pretty fortunate to do that for almost 99% of the year.”

It was kind of fun having all the media against you and different people talking that you’re going to lose. It’s fun when you actually pull it off and win.” 

–Matty Beniers

Following a successful rookie campaign, Beniers wasn’t ready to completely blow up his offseason routine. There would still be enough time to return to the weight room and the ice, but only after he carved out ample time to recharge his batteries both mentally and physically.

“That’s really important, especially after the longest year I played in terms of the number of games and the length of the season,” he said. “I took a couple weeks off just to get off the skates. For me, it’s just as much a physical as it is a mental break, and then when those couple weeks go by you are itching to get back on the ice.” 

Beniers gave a glimpse of why the Kraken made him the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft when he got his feet wet during the 2021-22 campaign after his season with the Michigan Wolverines ended. He did not look out of place whatsoever as he scored three goals and picked up six assists in 10 games.  

Beniers made a smooth transition to his first full NHL campaign with 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points last season. He led all rookies in points and plus-minus rating (plus-14), and he also tallied 10 power-play points and four game-winning goals.

His big season helped the second-year Kraken finish fourth in the Pacific Division with a 46-28-8 record and clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in franchise history. After knocking out the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in the first round, Seattle pushed the Dallas Stars to the limit in a hard-fought second-round matchup before losing in seven games.

“Just getting my first playoff experience was pretty exciting,” said Beniers, who chipped in with three goals and four assists along with a plus-6 rating in 14 playoff games. “I know guys who wait years just to get that first playoff game, so it was pretty cool that I was able to get that experience in my first season.”

Spurred on by a taste of playoff hockey, Beniers and his upstart teammates have a better sense of how far they still have to go to bring the Stanley Cup to the Pacific Northwest.

Matty Beniers set a career-high last season with
24 goals and 57 assists.

“In our locker room, we thought that we obviously had what it takes to win. I guess that’s all that matters,” said Beniers, who relished the underdog role and proving the critics wrong. 

“It was kind of fun having all the media against you and different people talking that you’re going to lose. It’s fun when you actually pull it off and win. We have a good team, a good playoff team, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

It’s been a long road to Seattle for the kid who grew up along the south shore of Boston’s suburbs. Along the way in his hockey odyssey, he made stops at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and the University of Michigan, where he refined his chops as a dynamic skater with the skills and tenacity to represent his country at numerous international events.  

After helping the U.S. win gold at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, Beniers was part of a talented group of returning players that set their sights on a repeat performance, only to have a COVID-19 outbreak cancel the tournament after one game the following tourney. 

Fortunately, for Beniers and four of his teammates—Jake Sanderson, Brock Faber, Matthew Knies and Drew Commesso—the sting of disappointment was softened by being named to the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team.

“Everyone was disappointed that we couldn’t play in the World Juniors,” Beniers said at the time. “Getting this opportunity lessens that disappointment a little bit along with knowing that I’ll get another chance to wear the USA jersey.”

Competing on the biggest stage in the game, Beniers and his collegiate teammates certainly didn’t disappoint, going toe-to-toe with older and more experienced professional players representing their respective countries. 

Despite falling to Slovakia in a quarterfinal shootout, Beniers was buoyed by the experience and knew he had what it took to continue to climb hockey’s evolutionary ladder.

“You go from college hockey to playing in World Juniors, it’s a little faster, a little more physical,” he said. “Then the next step was playing in the Olympics against older guys who are in pro hockey in other parts of the world, and that just gives you another taste of what it’ll be like at the next level.”

The more you worry about personal goals the harder it is for it to happen, and the more you think about yourself it’s harder to play as a team.”

–Matty Beniers

No matter what he faced before, there was really no way to replicate the challenge of going up against the best players in the world night after night for 82 NHL games. Still, Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol had confidence in his 20-year-old center who was often tabbed with shutting down some of the league’s most dynamic players in crucial situations.

“Obviously it’s such a hard league. It’s more physical and everyone has such good sticks,” said Beniers.

“College hockey is obviously hard, but when you’re going against some of the top players in the world like [Connor] McDavid, [Sidney] Crosby and [Auston] Matthews, the defensive aspect of the game and making sure you’re in the right spots and right positions definitely takes a little bit of getting used to.”

Still, Beniers continues to settle into life in his new home in the Pacific Northwest. With a proximity to the ocean, passionate sports fans and a thriving seafood scene similar to what he has back home, he has fit in well—both in the community and inside the Kraken locker room where everyone is eager to show that last season was far from a fluke.

“We had a really good year last year and I’d love to build off that momentum,” Beniers said. “It’s great to be on a team like this because everyone’s bought into the team play and it doesn’t really matter who gets the credit. It’s kind of the next-man-up mentality, and that’s been really cool.”

As for following up on last season’s Calder Trophy performance, Beniers isn’t concerned with his place on the stat sheet. For him, winning is the only thing that matters.

“The more you worry about personal goals the harder it is for it to happen, and the more you think about yourself it’s harder to play as a team,” he said. 

“I just want to play a good team game and try to help the team win. Good things happen when you’re winning.”

Issue: 
2023-10

Poll

Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
25%
Matthew Knies
0%
Brock Faber
75%
Logan Stankoven
0%
Logan Cooley
0%
Total votes: 4