Ex-Wolverine Matty Beniers wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Detroit News
News staff and wire services |  The Detroit News

Former Michigan Wolverines center Matty Beniers was part of NHL history on Monday.

Beniers, the first NHL Awards finalist in Seattle Kraken history, became the first rookie from an expansion franchise to win the Calder Trophy within the first two seasons since Peter Stastny captured the award in 1980-81, the Quebec Nordiques’ second campaign.

Beniers was a decisive winner, collecting 160 first-place votes among the 196 ballots cast for 1,836 voting points. Second-place Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers received 24 first-place votes and was the second choice on 71 others for 1,074 points, followed by another former Wolverine Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres. Power ranked third in voting with 929 points (nine first-place selections).

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“I think I was pretty fortunate this year production-wise,” Beniers said. “Every year is not going to be like that, I know that, but it was definitely a good start. I was obviously really happy and thankful for the year.”

Beniers led rookies with 24-33—57 in 80 games to help the Kraken (46-28-8, 100 points) post the largest win (+19) and point (+40) improvements by an NHL franchise from its first to second season.

The No. 2 overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft, the first selection in Seattle history, also ranked among the top rookies in multi-point performances (1st; 18), shooting percentage (1st, minimum: 80 S; 16.2%), plus/minus (1st; +14), goals (t-1st; 24), assists (2nd; 33), game-winning goals (2nd; 4), shots on goal (4th; 148), power-play points (6th; 10), power-play goals (t-6th; 4) and power-play assists (8th; 6).

Beniers, who finished second among rookie forwards in total time on ice (1,367:22) and fourth in average time on ice (17:06), was assessed only one penalty to become the fourth different player in League history – rookie or veteran – to skate in at least 80 games in a season and receive two or fewer penalty minutes.

Also Monday, Jason McCrimmon of Detroit won the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, given to the individual who has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.

McCrimmon is the president and founder of Detroit Ice Dreams Youth Hockey Association, a nonprofit youth hockey organization that minimizes the barriers that prevent underrepresented communities from access to hockey.

Connor McDavid won his third Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, falling one vote short of unanimous selection after the highest-scoring season by a player in more than a quarter-century.

McDavid also won the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted by his peers. The Edmonton Oilers’ captain led the league with 64 goals, 89 assists and 153 points. That’s the most points since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.

McDavid previously won the Hart in 2017 and 2021 and the Lindsay in 2017, 2018 and 2021. Universally recognized as the best hockey player in the world, McDavid is still searching for his first Stanley Cup title after Edmonton lost in the second round of the playoffs to eventual champion Vegas.

“Certainly it’s not lost on me what these trophies mean in the grand scheme of our game,” McDavid said. “To do it a number of times, it means a lot to me. Obviously, it’s not the motivating factor, but it’s special still.”

One voter out of 196 picked Boston’s David Pastrnak as MVP. The Bruins had a big night at the league’s awards ceremony after setting the record for the most wins and points in a regular season, records made possible in part by rule changes.

This year was a rare instance in which most of the major award winners were obvious since before the end of the regular season.

San Jose’s Erik Karlsson also became a three-time award winner, receiving the Norris Trophy as top defenseman – his first such honor since 2015. Karlsson at age 32 was the first defenseman to surpass 100 points in a season since Brian Leetch in 1992.

“I still feel like I had a fantastic year and I felt good the whole way, but I feel like there’s more,” said Karlsson, who has expressed interest in being moved to a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. “That’s what makes me excited moving forward.”

The Bruins had three award winners: captain Patrice Bergeron, goaltender Linus Ullmark and coach Jim Montgomery.

The Vezina Trophy as top goalie and Jack Adams Award as coach of the year were each a first for Ullmark and Montgomery. Ullmark led the league with a 1.89 goals-against average and .938 save percentage and was tied for the most wins with 40 – getting them in just 48 starts.

“You want to be the best at your position or even the best player, which is very tough when you have guys like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby playing against you, that’s a tough one,” Ullmark said. “Still, you have that goal.”

Montgomery coached Boston to 65 wins in his first season with the team, and he thanked those who supported him through a low point in his career.

“Three and a half years ago, the Dallas Stars terminated my contract because of my struggles with alcohol, and I had to change my actions and behaviors,” Montgomery said. “For those who struggle out there, you can change, you can affect change within yourself, and it doesn’t happen alone. You need a team.”

Bergeron won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward for a sixth time, building on the NHL record he broke last year. At age 37, he led the league in faceoff wins and percentage and was only on the ice for 27 goals against at even strength in 78 games.

Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings won the Lady Byng Award for gentlemanly conduct, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Mark Messier Leadership Award, and Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins – who had a stroke on Nov. 28 but returned to play 12 days later – won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote on the Hart, Norris, Selke, Calder, Masterson and Lady Byng. General managers determine the Vezina, while members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association pick the Jack Adams.

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