The news many sensed was possible is becoming reality.
Matty Beniers, the second overall pick by the Seattle Kraken in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft who left the Michigan Wolverines program to turn pro on Sunday, will reportedly suit up tonight against the Calgary Flames in his NHL debut, 6pm PT at Scotiabank Saddledome (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
Beniers, who met the media for the first time after skating with Ryan Donato and Jordan Eberle on Monday, called his arrival connected to the meaning of “going to be a lot of fun trying to build something here – a historic program.”
Beniers said it’s likely he will have family in attendance for the game in Calgary, a place that hosts the first-place squad in the Pacific Division and will face the Kraken in the second of back-to-back meetings after Calgary won, 4-1 in Seattle on Saturday.
That challenge drove head coach Dave Hakstol to ensure Beniers isn’t overthinking the game.
“We don’t want to overload the computer today,” said Hakstol.
Putting a forward into the lineup fresh off a run with the Wolverines to the Frozen Four as their leading scorer and finishing as a selection to All-Big Ten first team and West All-American first-team spots, Hakstol said the plan is to ease Beniers’ adjustment with an ability to “process the game,” and add “key pieces” on the defensive side.
“He’s got a great ability to understand the game and what’s going on around him,” said Hakstol. “His hockey sense is really good. His competitiveness is excellent. There’s going to be an adjustment for him.”
“This is going to be a great opportunity over the next month to make the transition and understand more about the game at this level.”
Chris Driedger will start for the Kraken in net, looking for his third win in the last five games. Jacob Markstrom, earning first star honors on Saturday night, will go again for the Flames, who have won four in a row.
“Our start has to be a little bit better in that respect, and we’re going to have to be determined offensively,” said Hakstol.
Calgary, who reportedly will get Calle Jarnkrok back into the lineup after missing five games due to illness, is closing in on a playoff spot, leading the Pacific Division by seven points over the second place Edmonton Oilers. Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames with 99 points and Elias Lindholm paces the team with 38 goals. Both were held scoreless on Saturday.
“If you look at their team, if you do a deeper dive into it, Seattle doesn’t give up much,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.