We’re rolling right along with our draft board, and coming in at second overall is another member of the University of Michigan’s stellar freshman class, in Matthew Beniers.
If you caught any of this year’s World Juniors, this is probably a name that you’re familiar with. Beniers picked up three points in seven games with the United States on their way to scooping up a goal medal, and while all eyes were on many of the big names on that team—2019 draftees like Cam York, Alex Turcotte, and Trevor Zegras—Beniers stood out for his motor that was helping to drive success for the US’s depth lines.
His international success was just the cherry on top of a really solid season with Michigan, which saw him scoring at a point per game pace and closing out the season 15th in overall scoring in the Big Ten, and third among freshman. There’s a whole lot to like about his game, so much so that in some circles, he’s quite seriously challenging Owen Power for the top of draft boards.
BSH 2021 Community Draft Board, No. 2: Matthew Beniers
Team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
Statistics: 10 G, 14 A in 24 GP
No. 6 (NA skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 4 by Future Considerations
No. 1 by Dobber Prospects
No. 5 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
What’s there to like?
We mentioned it into the introduction, but what immediately stands out about Beniers is his motor. He isn’t an absolute burner, but he brings good speed and he just never stops moving. There’s a distinct tenacity to his game—he’s quick and elusive, which helps him get around and under defenders, and despite not being the absolute biggest player on the ice, he’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas and drive the net for chances.
His line was something of a go-to for Michigan this season when they needed to spark something offensively, simply because they never stop trying to make something happen, which made them effective, and it’s been a lot of fun to watch, to boot.
And because of that motor, one area where Beniers really stands out is in transition. He’s shown a real confidence in being the one to lead the rush, and because of his strength—he is just so hard to push off pucks once he has possession—he’s been really effective in that role.
The numbers, too, really back this up. Per my tracking, Beniers was Michigan’s best forward in transition—of his 119 zone exits in 20 games tracked, he controlled 73.95 percent of them, and with 10 of his 31 dump-ins being recovered, this means that when Beniers was tasked with getting his line moved into the offensive zone, they ended up with possession of the puck 82.35 percent of the time. And, really, it’s hard to overstate how stellar that figure is.
And on top of that, as we mentioned, Beniers really didn’t shy away from asserting himself as a one-man transition machine—he ranked eighth among all skaters and third among forwards in successful zone exits (with 94), and was able to control 88.30 percent of them. Which is all to say that not only was Beniers showing confidence in being a driver for his line, but far, far more often than not, they were better for it.
But, for all that we can say about Beniers’s strength in transition, he isn’t a one-note player with that being his only area of impact, but it certainly helps the rest. The fact that he’s so consistently able to get his line set up in the offensive zone, unsurprisingly, means that they were driving play very well when he was on the ice. All told, in the 10 games that I tracked, the Wolverines posted a 69.43 CF%, 77.33 SCF%, and 82.61 HDCF% with Beniers on the ice at 5-on-5, which points to them positively dominating those matchups. And as far individual offense goes, he still generated a good bit. He didn’t serve as a volume generator of chances on his line (Kent Johnson, hello), but he still put up 23 shot attempts, 13 scoring chances, and 10 high danger chances over those 10 games, which is a very respectable total. He’s shown good consistency in creating chances, and that’s been a real asset to his game.
All in all, Beniers is just a really complete player, all of the finer points of his game are working well together. The tools are evident—good shot and passing ability, a decisiveness in reads, and a physicality that allowed him to hang well at the college level right from the jump. He’s able to dictate pace well, be it slowing down or speeding things up to best suit him. He’s also served well as a compliment to the flashier, more dynamic playmaker. And, of course, his defensive acumen shouldn’t be overlooked, and has made him quite a responsible player at this level already.
It’s a package that certainly impresses, and overall his is a game that one can see easily translating to the next level.
What’s not to like?
There really isn’t a whole lot to dislike about Beniers’s game, if we’re being honest. Indeed, he’s been referred to as the safest bet for a pick of this year’s top prospect group, adding a level of security that goes along with all of his obvious skill.
But, if there’s one thing we could point to, it’s that for all that is working in his offensive game, he doesn’t bring a ton of dynamism from his shot or passing. Both are good, but not stellar, and he isn’t going to dazzle you with highlight reel feeds on a nightly basis. Is that a bad thing? No, that’s just not his game, and that’s fine. But it also isn’t difficult to see a team with a very high pick deciding that they want to use it on a player with a more dynamic, flashy skillset, and Beniers falling a bit as a result. Again, not necessarily a negative, but it’s something interesting to consider in regards to teams’ drafting philosophies.
How would he fit in the Flyers’ system?
In some ways, this is an easier theoretical fit to see. The Flyers’ center depth, while not positively tenuous, is an interesting situation, especially when you add into the mix the questions of Nolan Patrick’s longevity with the team. There isn’t much behind him on the depth chart in the way of high-end centers (Morgan Frost has that potential, but beyond him... *crickets*). So adding Beniers would certainly reinforce a position of need.
But beyond that, his style of play really would mesh well with what the Flyers are at least trying for, what they look like when they’re at their best. He doesn’t add a ton in terms of raw top-end speed, but he plays with really good pace, is strong in transition, and does excellent work on the forecheck and the cycle. Systems change, to be sure, but this is a mold of player that would certainly fit with what the Flyers are building towards.
Could the Flyers actually get him?
Just like it was a hard no on the Flyers being able to get Owen Power, it’s a pretty hard no on Beniers, as well. He’s just about as close to a lock for at least a top-five pick as you can get, and that’s well out of the Flyers’ reach.
No additions to the poll today! Let’s keep it whittled down to four, shall we?
Who should be no. 2 on the 2021 BSH Community Draft Board?
This poll is closed
2021 BSH Community Draft Board
- Owen Power — D, University of Michigan (NCAA)
- Matthew Beniers — C, University of Michigan (NCAA)