Matthew Beniers, in line to become the first NHL Draft pick by the Seattle Kraken, said Thursday he is considering staying to play next season at the University of Michigan.
The center, and Michigan defenseman Owen Power, are projected by NHL.com to be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, which will begin July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW).
“I’m definitely leaning towards coming back,” Beniers said. “We’re going to have a really good group, a lot of good players, and we’re going to get a real run at a national title. I definitely want to win a Big Ten championship and kind of do that whole college thing after getting closed down last year because of COVID.”
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Beniers scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games as a freshman and led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38).
Power also has said he is considering playing the NCAA season.
“[Power] is leaning towards going back, so that’d be fun if he came back and we kind of got the whole crew back together to give it another go,” Beniers said. “But we’ll see what happens, we’ll see what team drafts me and what they think. It’s kind of like a family decision.”
Seattle won the No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. The Buffalo Sabres won the No. 1 pick and could select Power.
“I mean, obviously, what the team that picks me thinks and what my family and my advisers think will be a part of the conversation,” Power said Wednesday. “But I think just the opportunity to win at Michigan and kind of get a true college experience is something that will factor in.”
Other possibilities for Seattle at No. 2 are forward Dylan Guenther of Edmonton of the Western Hockey League and defenseman Luke Hughes of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team, who is expected to be a freshman at Michigan.
Beniers could sign an entry-level contract and play in the NHL next season after his college season is complete. He said he has interviewed with Seattle, an expansion team that will begin play next season.
“It’s a big step,” Beniers said of starting his professional career. “I’m only 18. I’d love to be in college, kind of have a college life, especially after last year, we didn’t really get the full college experience, getting fans at games, didn’t get to go to a classroom, going into the classrooms.
“If you’re going to leave, you’re going to have to live on your own or with a roommate and kind of become a pro, become an adult, so if I’m ready to make that jump and I’m ready as a hockey player, then it might be the right thing, but if it’s not, then I think it’s the right thing to go back (to Michigan).”
Rounds 2-7 of the draft are July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report
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