Arguably the best player (and one of the youngest) on the US National Team’s under-18 squad this season, Matthew Beniers’ late birthday has pushed his NHL draft-eligibility to 2021. Beniers made heads turn as an underaged player with the U-18 team in the 2018-19 season with 20 points in 20 games. He represented USA at the 2019 U-18 IIHF tournament last spring as a double-underager and played a depth role. He only registered two assists through seven games, but was an impact player every time he took to the ice.
After playing (and flourishing) with a talented U18 team that season, there were questions about whether Beniers would be able to maintain and up his production for this season with a less offensively gifted group (though it’s pretty hard for anyone to match what players like Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield did that year).
Matthew Beniers presents an interesting riddle in terms of future #2021NHLDraft rankings.— Sam Stern (@SternScouting) November 6, 2019
A talented late-02 who excelled last season while playing up with the best NTDP U18 team in The Program's history.
His production has slowed this year with a far less talented group.
The drop-off in production was evident between the two age groups. In 2018-19, the U-18 team had six players finish with more than 60 points and two with 100 or more points. This season, nobody on the U-18 team reached the 50-point margin. Still, Beniers managed respectable numbers, finishing second on the U-18 team in points and first in goals with 18.
A natural center, Beniers did get some time in the middle of the ice this season, though he did start the majority of games at left-wing, including at the 5 Nations tournament. He likely would have dominated for the team at the IIHF U-18s this season had they not been cancelled.
Beniers is an excellent 200-foot player who is always involved in play, even when he isn’t putting up points. He plays both special teams and solid in the faceoff circle. Always seemingly in the right areas of the ice, Beniers reads both his teammates and opponents well. Both a scorer and a playmaker, Beniers is an instinctual player, which allows him to create and find spaces that others may not see at first.
Also an explosive and powerful skater, Beniers will start the forecheck and hunt for pucks. Likened to a machine, when Beniers is moving in the offensive zone, he is difficult to stop. He is a force in corners and extremely difficult to battle for pucks. Beniers also has the ability to carry pucks into the offensive end. He will use his mobility, edgework, and size to blow past defenders in one-on-one situations.
As crafty as he is agile, Beniers has also shown the ability to catch up with opponents on the rush, creating turnovers by lifting their sticks and stripping them of pucks. Beniers does most of his creating from down low and near the crease, but has excellent hands in tight.
Although a powerful forward at the U-18 level, as he is heading off to college next season, Beniers will still need to bulk up. His shot is accurate and his release is quick, but it still lacks power. Still, Beniers has proven that he can adapt and thrive amongst older players and stands a good chance to perform with Harvard out of the gate next season.
Strengths: Skating, Vision, Instincts
To Improve: Shot, Strength
Beniers is a good skater who can blow by opponents in the neutral zone. He has excellent on-ice vision and the ability to make plays all over the offensive zone. He thrives in space and has the agility and edgework to create it for himself. His shot is accurate but it isn’t overly powerful. He has a quick release and because he is a dual-threat as a playmaker and goal scorer, he is able to keep opposing teams on edge and make the plays that he sees. A high-skill and high-IQ player who looks to be among the top prospects available for the 2021 NHL Draft. [Dobber Prospects]
Matthew displays high end hockey sense and instincts that allows him to be in the right place on the ice consistently. He is not a possession player as much as he is a quick strike player. He makes quick decisions with the puck due to his hockey sense and ability to think the game at another level. [2019 Black Book]
Matthew Beniers doing an awesome job here to create a breakaway for himself pic.twitter.com/FXaipfkct7— Future Scope Hockey (@FSHockeycenter) January 21, 2020
Statistics from Elite Prospects and USA Hockey.