Seattle Kraken forward and alternate captain Jordan Eberle can remember when he was a rookie.
It was 11 years ago with the Edmonton Oilers, an age still enwrapped in the infancy of Twitter and in a place where Wayne Gretzky won Stanley Cups at Rexall Place. Eberle, 20 years old, would lead the Oilers in scoring on a team that missed the playoffs, but still carried two catalysts of one magical run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, five years prior.
“I had guys and mentors I looked up to – Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky,” said Eberle.
As Eberle said he learned from the two leading scorers who helped the Oilers come within a one-win step of an improbable Stanley Cup title in 2005-06, from off-ice and civic conduct to managing relationships with the media, he’s now come full circle.
Eberle is the veteran, and the rookie is heralded, promising, and talented 19-year-old center Matty Beniers.
“You just want to let him be who he is,” said Eberle, who noted Beniers’ maturity. “I think the biggest asset in his game is how he plays with his head. He’s a smart, smart player. He sees the ice well, he reads and reacts quickly, and moves up and down the middle for a centerman well.”
Eberle already is off and running with Beniers, teaming with left winger Ryan Donato to form a new trio that turned plenty of heads in Beniers’ notable NHL debut, Tuesday in a 5-3 loss at Calgary.
Never mind the result – that was from a third period slip where the Flames scored twice on the power play, along with four unanswered goals. It didn’t take long for Beniers to dent the scoresheet, sending a cross-ice missile to the tape of Ryan Donato, who hammered it home for a 1-0 lead, and Beniers’ first career NHL point, just days after an emotional exit with Michigan from a Frozen Four loss to Denver.
Eberle, who said the trio could have had “three of four” goals based on the chances generated, was quick to mention how impressed with Beniers, noting his on-ice intelligence, vision, and puck battle commitment.
“He’s got a level head on him I can tell, already,” said Eberle, second on the Kraken with 18 goals. “The biggest thing is trying to build him up for the last (games) here, so he hits the ground running next year.”
The trio were the only line remaining together from Tuesday night as the Kraken returned to practice for the first time after late night travel from Calgary, using the two days off to mentally recharge for the remaining nine games of the schedule, which will be played in just 16 days.
Head coach Dave Hakstol said he preferred to stay with consistency for line combinations to explore ideal matches, but without a firm time commitment.
“It might be one period, I’ve got to be honest with you,” said Hakstol. “If it’s not a good fit, we could change things, in game. But it would be a great benefit if we can give guys a little time together over a couple games.”
The Kraken will return home to host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) at Climate Pledge Arena to open a three-game homestand.
NOTES: Defenseman Haydn Fleury, whom Hakstol said was “making good progress” as day-to-day (upper body), was out of a red colored non-contact jersey on Friday and took line rushes with Carson Soucy … forward Jaden Schwartz remained out of practice action, still officially day-to-day (upper body) … Hakstol confirmed assistant coach Jay Leach has been placed in COVID-19 protocol.
KRAKEN AT PRACTICE, APR. 15: