Photo by Rena Laverty
PLYMOUTH, Mich. - Four players from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program were selected in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft Friday evening.
NTDP alum Matthew Beniers (Hingham, Mass. / NTDP 2018-20) went second overall to the Seattle Kraken and Luke Hughes (Canton, Mich.) was chosen two slots later by the New Jersey Devils, marking the fourth consecutive year that the NTDP has produced at least one top-5 selection.
Beniers became the Kraken's inaugural draft choice after the NHL's newest team completed its expansion draft earlier this week. The forward tallied 84 points (36-48-84) over 106 games during his two seasons with the NTDP, finishing second on the U18 squad in scoring during the 2019-20 campaign. Beniers was a member of the gold-medal winning Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta and skated for Team USA at the 2021 IIHF Men's World Championship in Riga, Latvia, taking home a bronze medal.
"Seattle was one of my favorite interviews," Beniers said after the selection. "I felt really comfortable with them, it felt like a real conversation with them, so I had a pretty good connection. I'm really excited that they picked me."
Hughes followed next at number four overall to the Devils, joining the same team as older brother Jack Hughes, taken first overall in the 2019 draft.
"It's a dream come true," said the youngest Hughes. "I'm super happy and super excited to be with Jack. And maybe someday I'll play with Quinn, too. I'm super excited to be a Devil."
Hughes recorded 34 points (6-28-34) in 38 games with the U18 team this season, leading the group of blueliners in points per game.
Tyler Boucher (Haddonfield, N.J.) followed next, going to the Ottawa Senators with the draft's 10th selection. Injuries limited the power forward to 14 games played this season, but Boucher made the most of them as he collected nine goals and five assists.
The NTDP's day one selections were rounded out by forward Chaz Lucius (Grant, Minn.), who was selected by the Winnipeg Jets with the 18th pick.
Lucius netted an NTDP-high 31 goals during the 2019-20 season and followed that up with 13 markers and seven assists in 13 games this year.
"Nobody wants to hear that they are having surgery during their draft year, but I feel I made the most of my time," Lucius said. "I'm a better player and person from it. Overall, I feel like I had a great year I look forward to improving my skills."
The second round of the draft begins tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. ET on NHL Network.
NOTES: The NTDP's coverage of the 2021 NHL Draft is presented by Guaranteed Rate... Jake Sanderson (OTT, 2020), Jack Hughes (NJD, 2019), Alex Turcotte (LAK, 2019), and Brady Tkachuk (OTT, 2018) mark the NTDP's other top-5 picks over the past three years... All 20 draft-eligible players from the NTDP were rated on NHL's Central Scouting draft list... Rounds 2-7 of the 2021 NHL Draft continue tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. live on NHL Network.
ABOUT THE NTDP: USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is entering its 25th season of competition and is based at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. The goal of the full-time development program is to prepare student-athletes under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. National Teams and success in their future hockey careers. Its efforts focus not only on high-caliber participation on the ice, but creating well-rounded individuals off the ice.