Justin
Froese
February 4, 2021

FROESE: Buyer beware Beniers

In their draft year, prospects can shoot up draft rankings or tumble down them as the season goes on.

In 2020-21, one of those risers has been the University of Michigan’s Matthew Beniers. A standout start to his freshman season in the NCAA plus a gold medal with Team USA at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship have helped drive this rise.

SEE ALSO: 2021 WJC: 5 2021-ELIGIBLE STANDOUTS

Before you go drafting Beniers first overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, let’s take a closer look at the centerman.

The good

Puck transportation abilities and puck protection

Beniers is a bull on the puck. He elongates possessions with his quickness, pucks are stapled to his hip and the creativity to stick on pucks. He can modify his style to a degree from a hard or soft approach.

Dynamic qualities

He has a low, powerful frame, generates efficient stride length and weight transfers that allow him to gain speed and work off edges. Beniers has explosive elements that are intensified by his competitive edge. He uses linear crossovers but the ratio of crossovers to forward strides could be higher to create more deception.

RELATED: BELL’S 10 TAKES: BENIERS, WALLSTEDT, SILLINGER & MORE

Puck retrievals

The center finds a way to turn pucks over, gets in on the forecheck, to the goalmouth, and plays a hard game outside the dots. He shows the ability to stop up on pucks and cut off the defender’s hands. His off-puck tendencies are moderately successful depending on the angles he takes.

The concerns

Toolbox

The skills Beniers has are Snap-On quality, but I question if he has a full journeyman’s chest or the handyman carrying case. Application is key for him and I think the way he manages play sometimes makes me question whether he’s playing a style to transfer the skill to a higher level or to dominate that level the way he does in the NCAA. He can play laterally, but tends to see the ice in eight-foot swaths where he’s hit or miss on success rates with offensive angling and doesn’t adhere to a support system consistently.

Spider game

Beniers game is all about pressure and overwhelming opponents. He’s a workhorse player who can drive possession and is lauded for his ability to transition pucks. That being said, his forceful game is where he generates the majority of his puck touches and can limit his ability to create. Most of his chances are derived off of such instances and the ratio in which he plays a patient approach based on timing routes, using deception or changing speeds to create advantageous scenarios in comparison is low. Instead of a maestro creator, he’s more based around manifestation. Like a model rocket, he is strong out of the gate but unless someone can keep up to his pace he eventually peters out.

Final thoughts

There are a lot of high-end characteristics here, high-end work ethic and top tier talent components. Those will always be in fashion, and Beniers has them in spades. The use of these skills is the question. How he can balance the power base of his game to match the patience required to cater to detail will determine whether he can apply his skills in an effective manner.

That’s the difference between being elite or above average. Put the puck in spots that enable continuity.

It is incredibly rare for the players to do what he does in college at the NHL level, and he doesn’t have the feet of a Nathan MacKinnon or the vision to sustain. He’s balls to the wall and uses it as a crutch for the majority of play because he can right now. Because the skill expressions work approximately half of the time, he’s not changing his methods. That ratio will go down at the pro level. He needs to learn to play off the puck, in between checks, create space he can leverage by delaying, posting up, using support and width. He needs to make the effective play and then get in a position to get the puck back.

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