Matty Beniers spent the last four months with a goal in mind.
Prepare for the long haul.
The first draft pick in Kraken history already introduced himself to the big-league world and opened their imagination of his potential over the final ten NHL games of last season with nine points at 19 years of age, after foregoing his junior season at Michigan to turn pro as a center.
But he’s still technically a rookie, entering this year. He hasn’t faced a full 82-game schedule.
“I think I know it’s going to be a lot tougher than last year, so you have to be ready for it,” said Beniers.
Finishing the first of two days in Kraken rookie camp on Monday with 14 other skaters, including first round pick Shane Wright, he cruised through a modest precursor to the main camp event where all 53 players officially report to take ice on Thursday.
Beniers recognized the familiar word to so many hockey players, the “grind,” or where players – especially from college development roots – graduate from a small sample of over 30 games to a full, robust, and demanding slate of 82 games against the most physical and fastest players on the planet.
To game plan for it, Beniers said he gained 11 pounds of muscle over the summer while staying near family in Boston, and spent an average of two hours in the gym each day to enhance his strength, or “good weight” – what he described as muscle mass that won’t disappear with the taxing and exhaustive demands of training camp or the end of the season.
But fitness is only a piece of the puzzle. Then comes the part of what he puts into his mouth.
What’s his secret?
“Balanced diet,” said Beniers, unable to hold back a smile. “Less sweets.”
Then he was asked what the hardest vice was to give up.
“I don’t know if I gave anything up,” Beniers said, with another wry grin.
“I definitely limited it.”
Owen Power, a teammate of Beniers at Michigan now preparing for his first full season in Buffalo, is the consensus pre-season favorite to win the Calder Trophy. Beniers was picked right behind him, second overall last summer.
He is again right behind Power, this time as a consensus Calder Trophy candidate.
“Hopefully I can pick up where I left off, at the end of last year,” Beniers said.
For a summer of preparation with a lack of sugar, it’s an end goal that for many, would feel pretty sweet.