“This kid is a player” – Matty Beniers makes a big impression in Seattle

Matty Beniers will not read this or any story about himself. Beniers takes this edict so seriously that he asked his parents to stop sending him articles that had anything to do with him.

Humility means everything to Beniers. That’s why he thinks it’s better to focus on other things in life than what people say about him.

It’s also ironic considering people can’t stop talking about Beniers. His name comes up whenever anyone talks about the Seattle Kraken’s early success. Start talking about the Calder Trophy race and his name is one of the first to come up. Beniers is only 27 games into his NHL career, but he’s already so popular in Seattle that he’s been stopped in public for autographs and pictures.

His teammates joke that they are tired of talking about him. But they all have so much to say about what made it possible for him to stand out in the NHL as a 20-year-old, while also expressing what makes him special and makes those around him happy would like.

The affinity for Beniers is so strong that the Kraken’s pre-game introductory video is dedicated exclusively to Beniers for 30 seconds. It talks about how he’s the future and how he’s part of “The Next Wave” of players who are expected to lead the franchise for years to come.

Of course, Beniers will not know much of this because he will never read about it.

“I just never liked seeing things about myself,” Beniers said. “I don’t really know why. I think I may have seen other people around me doing the opposite and I just didn’t like it. So I started doing that when I was young.”

Beniers has managed expectations since the Kraken drafted him with the second pick in the 2021 NHL draft. The selection of Beniers came with the belief that the Kraken would get a prospect that turned out to be a premier two-way center that could potentially become one of their franchise cornerstones for years to come.

Going 27-49-6 in their inaugural season meant the Kraken had to turn the prospect of a brighter future into a selling point for fans. Everyone got a glimpse of that future last season, when Beniers left the University of Michigan after his sophomore year to sign an entry-level contract and scored nine points in his first 10 NHL games.

“The first time I practiced on the ice, I was like, ‘Oh my god, is he good!'” Kraken said Yanni Gourde said. “It was at that point that you thought, ‘This kid is a player.’ A lot of guys come out of college, they come out of junior days and you don’t know if they have it right away. He’s the boy who really stepped on the ice and you knew that boy would be good right away.

Beniers already had a point — an assist — in his first NHL game. What he accomplished in his first game at the Climate Pledge Arena only raised expectations. He was active in both zones while making the pieces that the casual fan or keen observer could appreciate.

He also scored his first NHL goal in the same game that went into overtime. Kraken trainer Dave Hakstol trusted Beniers enough to use him for three minutes of ice time in the extra frame. Arguably Beniers’ strongest performance came when he attempted to set up the game-winning goal in OT with a no-look pass between his legs. Such was the confidence he displayed that he was one of the three skaters selected in a shootout that the Kraken ultimately won.

“You’re not overly surprised at anything he does,” Kraken said Jordan Eberle. “They’re shocked at the confidence to do that to come into the NHL after a college season and jump straight into it. He’s a very confident boy, but he’s handling it very well.”

Skill is only part of the package. Eberle, an assistant captain, said Beniers has shown the maturity and personality it takes to thrive in an NHL locker room. What struck Eberle most was the fact that Beniers did it late in the season at a time when the team already had its identity.

First graders are usually more reserved at first. They take their time figuring out the dressing room before speaking up and showing their personality. Not Benier’s. Eberle said Beniers had no trouble fitting in with the rest of the team.

“He’s sociable. He likes to talk. He likes to tweet,” said Eberle. “I think when you have a kid that you can get under their skin at such a young age and have the confidence to give back, that’s a good thing. That means you fit right in.”

Beniers has also included his contributions. He is second on the team in goals and third in points (11). He is third among forwards in all of Ice Age, second in 5v5 Ice Age, and second in powerplay Ice Age.

As for rookie stats, Beniers leads all rookies with 11 points, is second with five goals and sixth with five assists. He also ranks second in Ice Age among rookie forwards and 11th among all rookie skaters.

Added to this is the trust placed in him on the defensive. He is sixth among Kraken forwards in faceoffs in defensive zones and fourth in starts in defensive zones, per Natural Stat trick. These numbers help create an overall picture that shows Beniers is shaping up to be an all-around player who Kraken believes is a strong part of their future.

Beniers is already showing at this stage in his career that he can be the top six center who can impact a game in a variety of ways. Having someone like Beniers among others is one of the reasons the Kraken turned out to be one of the NHL’s most notable upsets in the first quarter of the season.

“He’s a great player and a great person, which makes him a very special and important person in this organization,” said Gourde. “You’re not just trying to build an organization every year that has a good team, you’re trying to build a team with good character and good people. This is how you build a foundation in an organization.”

Good people. That’s all Bob and Christine Beniers wished for their three children as they grow older. They first saw signs of it in their youngest child when he was playing youth league basketball at home in Hingham, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

Beniers had a teammate who wasn’t the best at basketball. But Beniers kept passing the ball to him to ensure that particular teammate had a chance to grab a few shots in the game.

“After the game, this kid’s mom thanked me for what Matty did,” Bob recalled. “She said, ‘My son never touches the ball. … This is how all parents should want their son and daughter to be. That means being humble and kind to people and being aware of other people’s feelings. That’s a lot more important than hockey.”

Then Bob found out another story. It was Halloween when Gourde and his family visited Beniers and Want borrowingwho share a house. The Gourdes arrived only to find that Beniers and Borgen were dressed in costume so that Gourde’s two daughters could celebrate Halloween with them before going trick-or-treating later that night.

“You can tell by stuff like that that it’s genuine, super good, super nice, and we really appreciated that,” Gourde said.

Beniers and Borgen are roommates who have bonded while watching games, watching Game of Thrones, playing video games, and debating who is worse at Mario Kart.

“They text each other from their rooms,” she joked Carson Soucysitting next to Borgen in the dressing room at the team’s training facility.

Borgen said Beniers is a clean housemate who was also guilty of leaving his laundry in the dryer for a few days. He says they don’t cook much. But when they do, Beniers is the better cook of the two. Borgen says Beniers’ specialty is its garlic bread. It’s possible that Beniers showed those skills the weekend before Thanksgiving, when his parents and two siblings flew to Seattle to do their version of Thanksgiving with Borgen.

Going out for dinner gives them a chance to hang out even more, explore different restaurants, and also see more of Seattle. It’s just that eating out also teaches Beniers what it means to be a professional athlete in a public setting.

“Some people might want a picture with him, some people might want to say hi, some people just stare at him and look at him for a little bit,” Borgen said. “It’s probably his first year where he gets that quite a bit, but he’s a really nice person who was raised right and that’s why he’s handling things so well.”

What is it like to be Beniers? How does he deal with being a premier NHL center that could win the Calder and help the Kraken now and in the future, all in a market that’s new to hockey?

“I have no idea!” Beniers says in a way that makes everyone around him laugh. “I don’t even think about it. I think I have high expectations that exceed everyone else’s expectations. I think for a lot of guys on this team, someone might say, ‘You played a great game’ and you might think you played horribly. I feel like I’m the same.”

However, Bob has a way of describing it: It’s surreal. Her family is aware that Matty only moved away from home a few years ago to play for the National Team Development Program. He still carries the lessons he learned at the NTDP with him to this day. Bob said the reason Matty takes a nap before every game is because at NTDP they did it to help players understand how sleep can affect a routine.

Bob and Christine watch Matty’s games on TV. They also try to see him in person when time permits. They flew to Pittsburgh not just to watch the octopuses play the penguins. But they flew to make sure they could celebrate their son’s 20th birthday. Bob said Christine made sure her son got his gifts and “a big hug from mom” because those things still matter.

“I tell him all the time that he’s a very happy young man,” Bob said. “I also told him to take lots of photos so he can remember the ride.”

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