It’s hard to decide which I enjoyed more: winning and moving up in the Draft Lottery to draft Matty Beniers in 2021, or losing, moving down, and still getting Shane Wright in 2022. Both were amazing moments in a young franchise’s history, and both players will have a significant role in determining whether the “first” generation of Kraken players can turn the club into a contender. And while hopes are high for the steal from this summer, it’s Matty B who most will look to in the upcoming season.
Beniers made a brief appearance with the Kraken at the tail end of 2021-22 and to say he impressed people would be an understatement. In his first ten National Hockey League games, the young center managed three goals and six assists, very strong advanced metrics, and an almost even plus/minus (-1). It’s also worth noting that these games were played on a Kraken roster that saw significant departures at the trade deadline and was without injured winger Jaden Schwartz. But is it reasonable to expect Beniers to maintain that point-per-game pace over an entire 82 game season?
A handy tool for assessing the production from potential NHLers is this NHL Equivalency calculator. Entering Beniers’ totals from his most recent season with the Big 10’s University of Michigan suggests a relatively underwhelming total of 32 points in an 82 game season. The tool represents an average, while actual rookie production occurs on a bell curve, but I think we can treat that number as the absolute floor for Beniers’ 2022-23 totals.
For his ceiling, we can take the nine points in ten games and extrapolate over 82. That gives us 74 points, a total that would put Beniers amongst the top thirty rookie scorers of all time. Not an impossible outcome, but probably an unlikely one. Blending the two numbers, we end up with a 53 point season. Over his early career, he has been more of a playmaker than a scorer, though he certainly has finish, so the goals/assists split would be something like 20 goals, 33 assists. A good rookie season by almost anyone’s standards.
An improved supporting cast
Added into our equation needs to be the fact that Seattle looks much more like a NHL hockey club this fall. General manager Ron Francis has been hard at work improving the roster that finished third last in the league, and it’s reasonable to expect better results in Season 2.
A line-up that spends less time in its own zone is likely to produce more offense and Beniers, as a pass first player, should benefit from the addition of players like Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Danish winger is a lock for 25 goals, and assuming they play on the same line, Beniers should assist on half of those or more. And the net result of the team’s improved depth is that whether Beniers plays on the first line or the second, he should end up with line-mates who are capable of converting his passes into goals.
So where do we set the over/under on Beniers’ season totals? I’ve been accused of being an optimist, but I think 60 points is very achievable and should put him in the conversation for rookie of the year. One report gives Beniers the 5th best odds at winning the Calder Trophy. Admittedly, Beniers’ former Michigan teammate Owen Power may also have something to say about that, and so might young Shane Wright if things go his way, but personally I like Beniers’ chances at the trophy.