Matt Benning has always listed Nashville as his favorite road city. Now, he’ll be calling it home.
The 26-year-old defenseman signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Predators on Friday afternoon, as the club added depth to their blue line.
Benning, who filled that role for the Edmonton Oilers throughout the first four years of his NHL career, will now do so with the Preds, and he can’t wait to get started.
“It’s such a great town, great hockey organization,” Benning said of Nashville. “I’m really excited to join the squad and experience Nashville. It’s a great team with good core guys that have been competitive for a long time now.”
Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2012, Benning began his pro career with Edmonton after spending three seasons at Northeastern, winning a Hockey East title in 2015-16. The 6-foot-1 defender tallied eight points (1g-7a) and recorded a +8 rating in 43 games with the Oilers in 2019-20.
The right-shot blueliner has tallied at least 15 points in three of his four NHL seasons, including a career-high 21 (6g-15a) during the 2017-18 campaign, and owns a +32 rating in 248 career NHL games with Edmonton.
Video: Benning joins Preds’ blue line with two-year deal
“They gave me the opportunity to jump in the League when I came out of college and made the team, and that was a positive for me,” Benning said of his time with the Oilers. “I locked down that third-pairing role my first year…and I focused more so on defending hard and being extremely competitive and physical. Since then, [I’ve just been] adding things to my game, trying to get up in the rush more, produce a little bit more… But I’m extremely excited to join a D corps that’s spectacular already.”
Hockey bloodlines run deep in the Benning family – his grandfather, Elmer, was a scout for the Montreal Canadiens for nearly 50 years; his father, Brian, played in 568 career NHL games from 1985-95; and his uncle, Jim, is the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks – and his brother, Michael, was just drafted by the Florida Panthers.
The advice and guidance from the family ties have helped Matt reach the top hockey League in the world, and the Predators know exactly what they’re getting in the St. Albert, Alberta, native.
“[Head] Coach [John Hynes] is extremely excited about me bringing some physicality and some grit back there,” Benning said of his conversation with Hynes and Predators General Manager David Poile. “There’s a lot of ties in the organization to [Poile’s alma mater] Northeastern, and there’s a lot of college guys in the organization, so we were joking around a little bit about some college hockey too…but I’m really excited for a new start. [Nashville has] done a heck of a job throughout the last 10 to 15 years with the defenseman that they’ve brought in and developed and that sort of thing.”
Benning will be the next to learn from that pedigree, and the self-professed country music fan – who says Nashville is also his wife’s favorite place to visit – figures to fit right in.
“Every year, it’s ranked one of the best places to play on the road, and whenever I’m asked, I say that’s my favorite place to play,” Benning said of his new city. “We’re a little bit familiar with Nashville, and we’re super excited to explore it a little bit more in a different dynamic.”