Michigan center Matthew Beniers was selected by the Seattle Kraken with the second overall pick in the NHL Draft on Friday night.
Two days after the Kraken built out a roster through the expansion draft, the team has added their first player through the amateur entry draft.
Beniers, 18, is a left-handed center considered the best two-way center in this year's draft class. Beniers averaged a point per game in his freshman season at the University of Michigan and was named to the Big 10 All-Rookie Team. Beniers had 10 goals and 14 assists in 24 games played for the Wolverines.
"It's surreal. It's honestly amazing," Beniers said with a giant smile about being the first draft pick in Kraken history. "I could not be happier and I'm honestly at a loss of words thinking about what just happened.
"I'm so unbelievable unbelievably excited and thankful for everything."
Beniers helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championship and a bronze medal in the 2021 World Championship.
Beniers has been compared to Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews.
The Kraken invested heavily in defensemen during the expansion draft. Beniers has a chance to find a role with the Kraken this upcoming season and has the chance to develop into a lynchpin piece of the organization in its early years of existence.
Beniers, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Hingham, Mass., had been set to play his college hockey at Harvard. However, when the Ivy League announced it wouldn't sanction sports last year due to the ongoing pandemic, Beniers ended up at Michigan instead. Beniers can return to the University of Michigan for another season should he not make it onto the Kraken's roster in camp. Beniers said that there are some things he would still like to accomplish at Michigan but that he's unsure what lies ahead for him for the next year of his hockey life.
"Honestly I really don't know exactly what the best thing is for me next year whether it's going back or going to play for the Kraken," Beniers said. "Obviously I think that'd be really exciting to go play for the Kraken. ... I think a big thing is not having a real year last year, not playing a full schedule, kind of getting kicked out of the national championship, those are things that I want to have a real year, I want to try and make a run at the national championship.
"Obviously, if that's not the best decision for my development and me as a hockey player then so be it, but I think those are kind of some perks, something that I kind of want to do. But I think at the end of the day it's kind of what is the right thing for me to do as a hockey player and as a person."
Photo Credit: EDMONTON, AB - JANUARY 04: Matthew Beniers #10 of the United States skates against Mikko Kokkonen #35 of Finland during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship semifinals at Rogers Place on January 4, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)