It was a moment to crown a worth season of achievement, and provide a glimpse that still, the best is maybe yet to come.
Center Matty Beniers, who took the NHL world by storm among first year players with league leading campaign in scoring, was named winner of the Calder Trophy for the league’s rookie of the year award, officially announced on stage Monday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
"Beyond excited so thankful and honored to received that trophy," Beniers told 93.3 KJR-FM, who said he would be enjoying the evening in Nashville with family.
BENIERS ONE-ON-ONE, SOFTY & DICK INTERVIEW
Beniers is the first member of the Kraken to win a major postseason award in franchise history, and the first player in NHL history since Peter Stastny of Quebec in 1981 to win the Calder within the first two years of a league expansion team‘s play.
The voting wasn’t even close: Beniers garnered 160 first place votes among the 196 ballots cast by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
At just age 20, Beniers fulfilled potential that began to buzz two springs ago. After bursting onto the NHL scene with a nine point, 10-game output while foregoing his junior season at Michigan, Beniers exploded to lead NHL rookies with 57 points in 80 games, all the while facing stern defensive assignments and anchoring a top six role that played a part in one of the league’s leading offenses.
“Stats tell a little bit of the story, but in Matty’s case, just a real small piece of the story,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol, ahead of the awards ceremony in Nashville.
“You can’t make up or you can’t create presence. And Matty’s got presence. He’s got a ton of it. When he walks into a room, it’s not his physical stature. It’s the way he carries himself. It’s his demeanor, it’s his confidence, it’s his work ethic. It’s that whole package.”
At 3.5 goals per game, the Kraken were the fourth best offense in the NHL and led the league with 209 goals scored at five-on-five. Of the 24 goals Beniers scored, which were tied with Wyatt Johnston of Dallas for the rookie lead, 20 came in even strength situations.
Playing primarily with wingers Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle, his four game winning goals were second among league rookies.
“Those guys were huge for me - so many different things, on ice and off ice,” said Beniers.
“We had such a good locker room, and a bunch of great guys. I went to probably all of the older guys at some point.”
At one point, a 40-goal season was realistic, until Beniers’ production slowed down after Christmas. But he went through a learning curve about handling the season’s lengthy schedule, more than doubling his workload from the college ranks, while playing against competition that was typically in the mid-20’s age range, if not older.
“To a man, we all said, ‘now you got to come back and do it when its matters’,” said Hakstol. “Matty was able to do that. What a season he had. He’s an impressive young man.”
Beniers helped guide the Kraken to a historic first round upset of the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even though the climb was a grind. Beniers was held without a goal in six of the seven games, but elevated his production in the dramatic second round, where he found a second wind. Beniers hung six points in seven games on Dallas, where the Kraken ended their season nine wins shy of a Stanley Cup as Dallas advanced to the Conference Final.
Beniers beat out his former college teammate, defenseman Owen Power of Buffalo, and goaltender Stuart Skinner of Edmonton for the Calder Trophy.