For months, the talk around the Kraken campfire has been rife with speculation that touted prospect and No. 2 overall pick, Matty Beniers, would sign with Seattle as soon as his college season ended. On Sunday, the waiting and speculation came to an end when the standout 19-year-old center tweeted a graphic of himself skating on Elliott Bay, with the caption “See you soon.”
The Kraken PR team followed up Beniers’ tweet with a tweet of their own, confirming that the deal was done.
“We’re excited to welcome Matty to our organization,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis, via press release. “He capped off a productive career at Michigan with a trip to the Frozen Four and has impressed our staff over the past couple of years with his leadership and strong two-way game. We’re looking forward to working with him as he takes the next step in his development.”
Added Beniers, “It’s truly an honor to join the Kraken organization, and I can’t wait to get started.”
It is unclear at this time when Beniers will debut, but it would make a lot of sense for him to join the team for practice on Monday at Kraken Community Iceplex, then quickly hit the road for back-to-back games in Calgary and Winnipeg.
Beniers is just four days removed from the end of his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. His star-studded Wolverines lost 3-2 in overtime to the Denver Pioneers on Thursday in an exciting NCAA Frozen Four semifinal.
“Although we fell short of our goal, I loved my time with Michigan and am looking forward to the next step in my journey,” Beniers said. “Being drafted last summer was surreal, and I’m excited to get to Seattle.”
Signing Beniers now means the Kraken will burn the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract, so he will become a restricted free agent following the 2023-24 season. Being that there are only 10 games left, the team surely would have preferred to hold off on bringing him into the fold until after the season. But as Francis mentioned just prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, top prospects generally want to get beyond their ELC’s as soon as possible and onto more lucrative deals. So, burning that first year is the cost of doing business with elite, young players.
A 6-foot-1, 174-pound center that hails from Hingham, Mass., Beniers went through the US National Team Development Program before joining the Wolverines as a true freshman. He won a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest skater on Team USA, then played with pros at the IIHF World Championship, where the Americans took home a bronze medal. Beniers also had the honor of participating in the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February and was especially dynamic in a thrilling three-on-three overtime period in a quarterfinal loss to Slovakia.
Beniers had an exceptional two-year college career and progressed nicely between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He led Michigan and the entire Big Ten with 43 points (20-23—43) in 36 games this season after notching 24 points in 24 games last season. As an 18- and 19-year-old in the NCAA, he was playing against players several years older than him, and he succeeded every step of the way.
His game is responsible at both ends of the ice, but don’t expect him to light it up offensively right away. We think that will take a couple seasons at least, as he adjusts to the pace and skill of the NHL. Still, he has the maturity and physical ability to be an effective everyday player immediately.