Last night, the Buffalo Sabres took Zach Benson at 13th overall in what was an outstanding pick. Let’s break down his top three strengths.
The Blue and Gold struck gold last night when they drafted Zach Benson, teammate of their 2022 top pick, Matt Savoie. As good as Savie has been in the WHL, Benson was every bit as good, if not better for many portions of the 2022-23 season.
So good, that besides the fact he needs to improve his skating, Benson’s one of those few prospects with little to no glaring weaknesses. It’s rare to draft a player with so much upside at 13th overall, so Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams took advantage of the situation when Benson fell right to him.
What makes this prospect so intriguing? Keep reading for a quick breakdown of his strengths.
What Zach Benson brings to the Buffalo Sabres
1 – Constantly outsmarts opponents
When Zach Benson has the puck, he’s likely to give opponents headaches because they just don’t know what he’s going to do with it. His small size may have frustrated some fans, but he uses it well, often faking one direction before skating off (or passing the puck) into another.
When you have a player on the ice who can constantly fool opponents, they’re going to generate a lot of scoring chances and you’re going to think less about their lack of size. That being said, it’s no wonder Benson has constantly found teammates with ease over the past two seasons, including the Sabres own Matt Savoie, and registering 62 regular season assists in the process.
2 – Plays bigger than his 5’10 frame
Though Benson is agile and can slip away from any opponent, he’s also someone willing to put himself in prime position to retrieve the puck along the boards, and he’s never afraid to close in on opponents and use his stick to create turnovers when in the defensive zone. He’s also not afraid of contact, and don’t be surprised when he’s constantly fighting to gain leverage when trying to retrieve the puck.
Players of Benson’s size are known more for their offensive skill-set, playmaking, and finishing. But don’t let his slightly built frame fool you. Size is a deceptive part of his game, and if opponents aren’t expecting it, Benson will hand them an unpleasant surprise. And once again, you will think less of his slight build.
3 – Legitimate potential to succeed Jeff Skinner
Only a handful of players drafted each season have first line potential, and Benson is one of those lucky players. I’ve talked at times about drafting a player who will eventually need to replace Jeff Skinner, and a left winger like Benson has a legitimate chance to grow into being that kind of talent.
Benson is one of those forwards where everything, from productivity to his metrics, is just elite. He had 98 points in 60 regular season games last season, and metric-wise, the Elite Prospects Draft Guide handed him a 100 overall.
Give Benson two or three seasons playing at the junior and eventually the AHL level, where he will make his NHL debut in that time frame. And eventually, when Skinner takes the ultimate back seat when his play declines, Benson will be a worthy successor.
(Statistics and player information provided by Elite Prospects Graft Guide and EliteProspects.com)