The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23-24. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a comparison between top draft-eligible centers Mason McTavish of Peterborough and Matthew Beniers of the University of Michigan. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
Mason McTavish and Matthew Beniers are two top center prospects available in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Each has proven to be dynamic in his own way and is projected to be selected in the top 10.
The first round of the draft is scheduled for July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW), and rounds 2-7 on July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Which player has the higher upside?
McTavish (6-foot-1, 207 pounds), No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, made the most of his play at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, when he led all NHL Draft-eligible centers with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games for first-place Canada.
The impact McTavish made at the U-18s was critical since Peterborough didn’t play this season. The Ontario Hockey League announced the cancellation of its season April 20 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. McTavish scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games earlier this season on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland.
Beniers (6-1, 175), No. 6 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan. He led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38).
He also helped the United States win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship as the youngest player on the roster (Nov. 5, 2002), scoring three points (one goal, two assists) and averaging 17:05 of ice time in seven games as a second-line center.
“I’m taking Beniers,” TSN director of scouting, NHL analyst and a former NHL general manager Craig Button said. “I really believe that Beniers is a (Vancouver Canucks forward) Bo Horvat-type player. Matt can play anywhere with anybody and help individuals get better, teams be better. You put him in any situation, and he can excel.”
In a poll conducted by NHL.com of 10 NHL scouts who were asked which player they would choose if given the option, Beniers earned a 7-3 advantage.
NHL.com sought the opinion of NHL evaluators who have watched McTavish and Beniers this season. They promised honesty in exchange for anonymity.
In favor of Matthew Beniers
“Beniers has high-end hockey sense, hands and vision. He can do things in stride and at a high pace. He really sees the ice, is great on the power play and as a setup man on the half-wall. He has pull-away speed and quickness. McTavish has good skill, sense and distributes the puck well, but just not at same level as Beniers.”
“I have Beniers a notch ahead; his motor never stops. I don’t think Beniers gets enough credit for the skill he has. They’re both going to be great picks, two guys who will go top 10 in my opinion, no problem. Throw in guys like (William) Eklund, (Dylan) Guenther and (Kent) Johnson, and this top 10 is going to be good.”
“Beniers is as close to (Chicago Blackhawks captain) Jonathan Toews as there is. He checks every single box of a player you’d want to start an organization. He’s a 6-foot-1 center and can skate. He doesn’t drive the offense, but he’s got that secondary offense. I think the biggest compliment I can give Beniers is he’s an April, May, June player. McTavish probably is too; I just don’t know him well enough off the ice. Players like Beniers elevate their game when you want to win a championship. I think Beniers is going to go higher just because of the body of work and maybe more name recognition. Maybe if there was an OHL season, it would be more of a conversation.”
In favor of Mason McTavish
“Beniers has played at a high level for the last few years and has been excellent wherever he’s played. He’s probably the more ready of the two to step in and play next year. Having said that, I would take McTavish. He has been a more prolific scorer so far in his career; he’s bigger and can play a real heavy type of game. He has the potential to be a top-line center that’s hard to play against and can play big minutes in all situations.”
“He’s going to be a weapon. He just goes out and plays and he does whatever it takes to contribute, and scores goals in multiple ways. When Shane Wright (2022 NHL Draft eligible) got hurt for Canada at the U-18s, he showed he could be the driver of a team and in crucial situations. I kind of see a Ryan O’Reilly with a little more offensive upside. He’s a guy that’s going to be a team leader, a face-of-a-franchise type guy that’s going to do what it takes to win. I think that there’s just a little bit more to like about McTavish than Beniers, long term.”
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