Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. We start with our Matthew Beniers Scouting Report.
Matthew Beniers had an excellent freshman campaign with the University of Michigan. He put up 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points in 24 games this season. Beniers was named to the Big Ten All-Rookie Team, and was an Honourable Mention for the conference all-star team. Beniers and the Wolverines were all set for the Frozen Four Tournament but had to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test on a member of the team. He was also part of Team USA at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, helping his country to a gold-medal performance. Beniers put up a goal and two assists in seven games during the tournament.
In 2019-20 Beniers was an alternate captain for the U.S. National Development Team Under-18 Team. He scored 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points in 44 games that year. In 2019, he won a bronze medal at the Under-18 World Championships. As an underage player, he put up two goals in seven games.
2021 NHL Draft #1: Matthew Beniers Scouting Report
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born November 5, 2002 — Hingham, Massachusetts
Height 6’1″ — Weight 168 lbs [185 cm / 76 kg]
Beniers is a very good skater. His top-end speed is very good. He reaches that top speed quickly as Beniers has a good first step and outstanding acceleration. His agility and edgework are outstanding. Beniers is able to beat defenders off the rush, both with his speed to take the defender wide as well as his ability to quickly change speeds and directions to fool the defender. He is also strong has a strong lower body, giving him excellent balance and making him tough to knock off the puck. He can fight through checks when carrying the puck and also wins battles along the boards. Beniers stride is still a little choppy though, which suggests that as good as his skating is, it could be even better after a couple of years with an elite skating coach. He could also add some muscle to his frame.
Beniers is an outstanding playmaker. He controls the puck with his soft hands and excellent stick control. Beniers can slow the play down or speed it up in order to create openings in the defence. His slick hands can create passing lanes. Beniers has the vision and passing skill to take advantage of it. He can control the puck in the neutral zone, creating effective zone entries as well as generating offence in the transition game. Beniers has the patience necessary to give his linemates time to get open and then find them with a pass to generate a scoring chance.
While he is more of a passer than shooter, Beniers is well rounded and can score goals. His wrist shot has decent power, but is really helped by his excellent accuracy and very quick release. He also has a good snap shot and one timer. Beniers has the smarts to get open without the puck, and finds dangerous opportunites in the slot and at the back door. With his excellent balance, Beniers is able to forecheck and cycle effectively. He gets in quickly and forces defenders to move the puck quickly and potentially make mistakes. He is tough to knock off the puck in battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Beniers is also a very smart defensive player. He does a good job of always being on the right side of his man and the net. He is also good at using his quick stick to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers. Beniers also uses his high-end hockey IQ in the defensive zone. He reads the play and anticipates where it is going. This also helps him to steal the puck from the opponent. His quickness allows him to get to loose pucks as well. Beniers is able to play a physical game and contains the cycle. He transitions the puck from defence to offence extremely well.
Projection and Comparison
Beniers can become a franchise centre. While he’s played some wing at times, his future appears to be up the middle. He is probably never going to challenge for scoring titles, but he can become a top line offensive player who also plays against the other team’s top line. His two-way game is everything a coach would want. Given the short college season this year, Beniers may not be NHL ready this fall. He could use another year with the Wolverines and another appearance at the World Juniors. A mature player, he can eventually become a leader on his team. In terms of a style comparison, he plays the game similarly to Patrice Bergeron, if he were a winger. This is a stylistic comparison only though and not one based on talent or ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Matthew Beniers that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Matthew Beniers Scouting Report Main Photo: