Buffalo Sabres rookie winger Zach Benson wowed us in the preseason, and that’s great. But will this translate into the regular season?
Preseason is the time of year that you don’t want to take too seriously, as I stated in last night’s postgame piece. However, you can put more stock into the preseason when you watch players trying to make the opening-night roster because, in their respective situations, everything counts.
If a player, or players, toil through bad games in the preseason but they’re a lock to be a major centerpiece on the team, you can wave that off, no questions asked. But for players like Zach Benson, Brandon Biro, and others, every shift counts even if the games don’t.
Which is why Zach Benson was so impressive during these seven games, six of which he appeared in. Benson seemed to get better as time went on, and he finished with four goals and two assists, good for six points. And to top things off, Benson performed well regardless of which lineup he played in.
Want more insight? Here is what head coach Don Granato said following last night’s loss to Pittsburgh:
"“He’s done it with different personnel in different situations in game after game. So, he’s done very well for himself through camp. Not many things you could nitpick with. He’s done a lot of detail to his game, and he’s been ready to play each and every shift, any situation, read situations well, has helped guys around him on whatever line play better.” – via Sabres.com"
Source: Mittelstadt tallies 3 points in preseason loss to Penguins by Jourdon LaBarber
Will Buffalo Sabres rook continue success into the regular season?
In all technicality, this is a premature piece to write, since Benson has yet to make the team, yet there’s enough evidence out there to conclude that he’ll be in the lineup when the puck drops this coming Thursday. But since I said it last night, I’ll say it again today: Preseason doesn’t count, so those six points Benson scored aren’t appearing in the record books.
That being said, Benson was also one of those “fringe contenders,” meaning he had to treat every shift as though it were the regular season if he wanted a fighting chance at snagging a spot for at least nine games. You saw this last week with Brandon Biro who, despite getting hit in the mouth with the puck, threw on a face shield after he got stitched up and kept at it.
Therefore, I’m not ruling anything out with Benson. Sure, it was preseason hockey and he played against numerous prospects, but those prospects were also trying to make an impression. He looked good against teams that brought their “A Groups,” and the Penguins were definitely playing last night as though the regular season already started.
So can Benson keep this run going in the regular season? Honestly, I’d be unsurprised if he did, but I’d also be unsurprised if he started playing like an overmatched rookie when the games matter. He showed me enough to believe, no doubt, but he’s still 18 and undersized, so I won’t lose sleep if the worst happened and he ultimately found himself back in Wenatchee. We’ll most likely see what happens come Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres take on the New York Rangers.
(Statistics provided by Sabres.com)