Anaheim Ducks 2021 Draft Profile: Matthew Beniers is the Complete Package

EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 25: Matthew Beniers #10 of the United States skates against Russia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 25, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 25: Matthew Beniers #10 of the United States skates against Russia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 25, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

The NHL post-season has officially come to an end, with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanely Cup for the second year in a row. While congratulations are in order, the count down to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft has officially begun. The Anaheim Ducks currently possess their highest draft pick since drafting Bobby Ryan in 2005, which guarantees them a great player to add to their prospect pool come July 23rd.

Unlike the last few seasons, however, this year’s draft is filled with some uncertainty. The consensus seems to be that the University of Michigan duo Owen Power and Matthew Beniers will be drafted first and second overall respectably. However, with Seattle in the position to draft second, anything is possible at this point. Meaning that Beniers could potentially be available should Seattle pass on the dynamic two-way centerman.

While I believe there are many reasons Bob Murray and co. should go in a different direction with this draft pick, there are about as many reasons why he shouldn’t. Despite the fact that Anaheim has Trevor Zegras in their pipeline for the foreseeable future, Matthew Beniers is one of those players that probably shouldn’t be passed on if he is still on the board when the Ducks select third overall.

Matthew Beniers Profile

"Born: November 5, 2002 (18 yo) Hingham, MANation: USADraft Year Team: University of MichiganPosition: CShoots: LHeight: 6’1″/185 cmWeight: 174 lbs/79 kg"

Matthew Beniers Draft Year Performance

To start the 2020-21 season, Matthew Beniers was set to begin his year with Harvard University. However, due to the pandemic, plans changed and he ended up changing his commitment to the University of Michigan in the wake of the ECAC suspending team sports.

Nevertheless, there is always a silver lining and Beniers quickly set himself apart as a powerhouse for the Wolverines. Opening up the scoring for the 2020-21 season, he began his NCAA career off on a four-game point streak. His performance would quickly make his stock in 2021 NHL draft rankings skyrocket, putting his name in the mix as the potential first or second overall pick.

As a freshman, Beniers started his year on the fourth line but quickly solidified a spot in Michigan’s Top-6. Despite the shortened season, the 18-year-old pivot would end his season with 24 points (10g, 14a) in 24 games. His point totals put him 3rd in the league for freshman scoring.

He also ended the year as one of Michigan’s top goal scorers and 3rd on the team in points. His incredible performance throughout the season earned him U-M Rookie of the Year and he was also named to the NCAA (B1G) All-Rookie Team and the NCAA (B1G) Honorable Mention All-Star Team.

What really moved the needle for Beniers draft projection, however, was his performance with Team USA at the 2020-21 U20 World Junior Championship. Entering the tournament, many considered Beniers as a consideration for the lineup. Nevertheless, his performance earned him the role as Team USA’s number 2 center.

While he only produced 3 points (1g, 2a) throughout their 7 game tournament, Matty’s performance both on and off the puck proved to be valuable to his team. He was utilized as one of their primary penalty killers and was one of their go-to guys in late situations. His hard work was one of the many driving forces that thrust Team USA into the gold medal game, ultimately ending the tournament victorious.

Familiarity with Anaheim Ducks Current Prospects

One of the biggest draws to bringing in Beniers if he is still available at third overall is his familiarity playing alongside several of the Anaheim Ducks’ current prospects. In 2019, Beniers played alongside Trevor Zegras and Henry Thrun on the U.S. National U18 team. Both Zegras and Thrun are projected to be a big part of the Anaheim Ducks’ future.

However, despite ending the 2019 season 20th on the team in scoring, once the 2019 draft class left, Beniers would carve out his own path. In 2020, he would become a prominent leader on the U.S. National U18 team and was named as one of their alternate captains. He would also end his final year in the USDP second in scoring and first in goals.

Going back to his performance in the U20 WJC, Matthew would reunite with Trevor Zegras and Henry Thrun, but would also have the opportunity to play alongside Jackson Lacombe and Sam Colangelo, two Anaheim Ducks prospects drafted in 2019 and 2020 respectably. These five players have already won a gold medal together, why not take it one step further and make it the Stanley Cup?

The Complete Package for Bob Murray

Matthew Beniers has a wide range of strengths and skills that make him a desirable asset for many envious GMs outside of the top 2. He plays an incredibly well-rounded two-way game and has the potential to be a top-six player in the NHL one day. He sounds exactly like Bob Murray’s cup of tea, and if given the chance, Bob Murray should do everything in his power to get his hands on a player like Beniers.

A 200-foot player, Beniers has incredible instincts on the ice. He is always one step ahead of everyone else, whether it comes to making plays with his teammates or reading the plays of his opponents.

He is an explosive skater who can blow past defenders and is incredibly difficult to stop. His lightning-fast acceleration paired with his agility and edgework make it very easy for him to navigate the offensive zone. His speed also aids him in fooling his opponents. Paired with his great balance, it is very difficult to knock him off the puck or win board battles against him.

Beniers drives the pace of the game which helps him create openings in the defense. He, much like Trevor Zegras and Ryan Getzlaf, is an incredible playmaker. He has a very accurate pass which makes him incredibly trustworthy on the ice.

"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. – Ben Kerr"

However, while Beniers may not be known as an explosive goal scorer, he still has great goal-scoring instincts. He can certainly add an offensive punch to whatever lineup he is inserted into.

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Beniers is often praised for his defensive game, as he is always involved. He has a very high hockey IQ and he utilizes his problem-solving skills very wisely in his defensive game. The way he uses his intuition, it is almost as if he can read his opponent’s move before they can even make it. His quick skating also allows him to get to loose pucks and transition his game smoothly.

"“I definitely take pride in it and make sure that I’m doing well at it. I think that kind of just comes along with my hockey IQ and kind of how I played growing up. … My dad coached me when I was really young and he always kind of set the importance of playing the game the right way, playing defense, making sure you’re kind of behind the puck and playing the right way.” –Matthew Beniers"

Much like at the U20 WJC, Beniers has been very effective in late situations all throughout his junior career. He is a very effective penalty killer and is trusted to protect the lead when faced with the opposition’s empty net.

He also isn’t afraid to be physical; he will do whatever it takes to pursue the puck and pressure his opponents but is level-headed enough to keep things in the rule book (we’re looking at you, Nick Ritchie.) He is well disciplined, spending no time in the penalty box during his freshman season in Michigan. However, Beniers is still very feisty and has a commanding presence on the ice when he is in pursuit of the puck.

All in all, Matthew Beniers is a very well-rounded player who excels at both ends of the ice. He doesn’t have a particular skill that sets him apart but he doesn’t have many flaws either. He plays a responsible game and is often praised for his incredible work ethic.

If that doesn’t sound like a Bob Murray type player, then I don’t know what does. However, having Trevor Zegras on the farm makes me question if Beniers is the best decision for the Anaheim Ducks going forward.

Regardless, if he is still available, selecting Matthew Beniers 3rd overall won’t be a mistake. The Anaheim Ducks have so many holes they need to fill, and Beniers could potentially be another key piece in speeding up their impending rebuild.

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