Photo Credit – Rena Laverty
There are quite a few NHL Draft eligible prospects who hail from New England such as Scott Morrow (CT), Mackie Samoskevich (CT) and Ryan St. Louis (CT) (Martin St. Louis’ son), but Matthew Beniers (MA) is the top prospect from the region. Beniers grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, which is just due south of Boston. Just a quick drive down the I-93 and Rt. 3.
Beniers played for Milton Academy and the Cape Cod Whalers before joining the USNTDP. His brother, Bobby Beniers most recently played division three hockey at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Beniers was set to play for Ted Donato’s Harvard Crimson this year, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 that was no longer an option. The Ivy League had cancelled fall sports and it seemed inevitable that they would cancel winter sports (which did happen in November). With Harvard Hockey not active this season, Beniers decided to commit to the University of Michigan. He joined fellow 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospects, Owen Power and Kent Johnson in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the 2021-2022 season.
In his freshman season at the University of Michigan, he was a point per game player. In 24 games played, he had recorded 10 goals and 14 assists. In addition to his outstanding campaign in Ann Arbor, he represented the United States at the 2021 World Juniors and took home a gold medal.
Beniers will also be playing for the United States at the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia. His Michigan teammate, Power will also be competing in the tournament, but for Team Canada.
D.O.B – November 5, 2002
Nationality – United States
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Beniers’ Style Of Play
Matthew Beniers is a very intriguing prospect. In my views, I have failed to find a fault in his game. While a lot of scouts and analysts have claimed that Beniers doesn’t have flash to his game, I would argue that he doesn’t need flash. If you are capable of mastering the fundamentals, flash is not necessary. It’s a nice to have. Plus, I would argue that mastering the fundamentals is flash.
Beniers is a smart hockey player. That statement is overused, but he does everything that you want him to do and knows exactly what to do to draw attackers to him and open up lanes for himself. Beniers always manages to get to the net and knows exactly what it takes to do so no matter what situation he is in.
Speaking of drawing attackers to him, Beniers does this with ease. If he is rushing up the right side of the ice and the attacker is to his left, he will opt to position the puck to his left. This draws the attacker in. When the attacker is approaching Beniers, he will shift the puck to his right and skate around the attacker. This allows him to bring the attacker to him and open up a clear path to the net. In the below clip, you can check out an example where Beniers was able to draw an attacker in to create an opportunity to open up a lane to allow him to complete a zone exit pass to his winger.
Beniers has proven that he has strong hands and the strength necessary to move the puck from left to right with ease and at the right time. Not only is his strength key in drawing attackers in, but it is also vital when it comes up to Beniers’ reach. In the pre-tournament game against Finland, we saw a great example of Beniers using his reach to secure the puck. Beniers is constantly hunting for the puck in all three zones. His relentlessness and determination to capture the puck reminds me quite a bit of Lucas Raymond. Beniers uses his reach in tough puck battles. Battles in which he was not the first player to the puck. He shows quality balance and strength to reach out for the puck.
While Beniers has shown to aggressively hunt for the puck on the forecheck, he seems to get to the puck too late in most situations. Yet, Beniers does not have acceleration issues. To gather more speed on the forecheck, Beniers should look to lengthen his first steps to help push him to the puck at a faster rate. But, I just want to be clear that plenty of NHLers struggle with gathering speed on the forecheck. This is not a fault. If Beniers did not acquire the speed on the forecheck that forwards like Raymond have, it would not hurt his future.
Moving along, Beniers has also shown that he can flee tight pressure consistently. No matter if Beniers is controlling the puck in the offensive zone or defensive zone, Beniers will fight his way around pressure. He has quick feet and can pivot/make a quick turn on a dime. At open ice, if an attacker is closing in on him, he will deceptively complete a behind the back pass to his defenseman. He will also opt to use the boards as a backboard when pressure is closing in on him and that allows him to be a threat in transition.
When it comes to puck distribution, Beniers is quick with his assessment. He knows exactly what he wants to do. Beniers doesn’t sit and wait for an opportunity to arise. Often that means, that Beniers will drop back, shift from the left-to-right side and vice-versa if he knows that there is a lane that he wants to exploit. Beniers’ passing is outstanding. His wind-up isn’t too lengthy. His range is pretty extensive too as he can complete cross ice, centered, drop and quick tape-to-tape passes with precision.
Let’s shift to Beniers’ shot. Beniers tends to find the most success down low right at the crease. While most of the success is at the doorstep, Beniers can manage to elevate the puck with an open blade to score quite a few top shelf goals with a strong snap shot. But, Beniers is also capable of firing quality shots from the mid slot, which is where he spends the bulk of his time when he is not working the cycle.
Last, but not least, let’s hone in on his skating. Beniers uses strong tight crossovers for acceleration. His stride is not lengthy, but the crossovers help push down the ice. Beniers’ quick feet allow him to be creative with puck possession. If he is trying to lose an attacker, he could play the puck behind his own net and pivot quickly when an attacker is approaching him. Not only does that allow Beniers to fight off one attacker, but his quick feet and quick decision-making allow him to dodge multiple attackers in a short window of time.
Mathew Barzal, Center, New York Islanders
Like Barzal, both centermen have quick feet and elite playmaking passing abilities down low. Barzal is slightly bigger than Beniers, but the size that Barzal is at is likely where we will see Beniers at in a few years or so. Barzal has also shown to have the same competitive instincts that Beniers has when forechecking. While Barzal is my comparable for Beniers, I want to caution readers that the comparable does not mean that I believe that Beniers will echo Barzal’s production at the NHL level, but he certainly has the chance to do so.
Second Line Center (NHL), but has First Line Center upside (NHL).
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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