The favorites held serve as Kraken center Matty Beniers won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie-of-the-year and Jim Montgomery of the record-setting Boston Bruins took home the 2023 Jack Adams Award ahead of Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol.
Kraken Rookie Leader
Through points and overall performance, Beniers was expected to win the Calder.
“So many people to thank, and just happy to be here,” he said after winning. “You want to do whatever you can to help your team, whether that’s scoring points, scoring goals, or doing good things defensively, whatever that is, you try to do that. I think I was pretty fortunate this year production-wise. Every year’s not necessarily gonna be like that, but it was a good start.”
Beniers was the Kraken’s 2nd-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft behind top pick Owen Power, defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres. They flipped spots when it came to Calder voting, with Beniers finishing ahead of Power. The two played together for two seasons at the University of Michigan from 2020-2022.
Goalie Stuart Skinner of the Edmonton Oilers was the the third finalist.
“My heart was racing before, during, and after,” Beniers said of making his acceptance speech. “Tried to hit as many people as I could, so many people to thank.”
Beniers finished with 57 points in 80 NHL games and seven more in 14 Stanley Cup playoff games. He pulled off arguably what was the Kraken’s regular season play-of-the-year when he scored seven-seconds into overtime to beat the Washington Capitals on December 1st.
Beniers centered the top Kraken line mostly between Jared McCann and Jordan Eberle, registered 14 power play points on the season, including six goals, and found himself a key component in the Kraken’s relentless forecheck. That included an occasional taste of the penalty kill.
Although unrelated, the 20-year-old from Massachusetts showed his overall value and potential by twice playing for USA Hockey in major events; the 2021 World Junior Championship where Team USA won the Gold Medal game against Canada, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, an event void of NHL players at the time.
The season credentials from the competition were just a bit too much for Dave Hakstol to overcome in the balloting for the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach-of-the-year. Despite a 40-point improvement for the Kraken compared to their inaugural season, the efforts of Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils and Montgomery of the Bruins were even more astounding.
“Congratulations to all the nominees and award winners so far this evening,” Montgomery said when accepting the Jack Adams Award. “I want to acknowledge Lindy Ruff and Dave Hakstol for their great seasons, and they’re deserving of this honor for the great seasons their team’s had. I view this award as a team award. It’s a reflection of the great Boston Bruins organization and of what (team president) Cam Neely and (GM) Don Sweeney did to assemble such a talented team.”
“Monty” led the Bruins to single season NHL records in wins and points, 65 and 135.
There was also a “rags to riches” story for Montgomery as well, not in terms of a dramatically improved point total, but due to the fact that he gradually returned to the NHL from alcohol abuse issues after being dismissed as the Dallas Stars head coach in December of 2019. He entered rehab in January of 2020.
This was his first season in Boston as the head coach after two seasons as an assistant with the St. Louis Blues.
“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 in his speech. “And for those who struggle out there, you can change, you can affect change within yourself, and it doesn’t happen alone.”
Monty thanks his friends, family and hockey organization.