Rookie sensation tops Tier III in the Sabres Top 24 and under rankings

The Buffalo Sabres have a few dynamic players listed in Tier III of the Top 24 and under rankings, so which rookie sensation is pacing the field?
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Buffalo Sabres v Vancouver Canucks / Derek Cain/GettyImages
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9: Zach Benson, W/Sabres

Okay, so if Zach Benson played in junior hockey this past season and made his AHL debut - the Wenatchee Wild found themselves eliminated in the first round of the postseason - he would still carry a higher ranking than Ostlund, Kulich, and the others. Therefore, that makes him the highest-rated Sabres draft pick with a year or less of experience in the NHL.

But Benson deserves this ranking for simply lasting an entire season at the NHL level and playing relatively well for someone who we all thought would spend at least another year in the WHL. 

If you’re looking at just points, you’ll be disappointed, as Benson scored just 11 goals and 30 points in 71 games. But no one showed more compete and was such a willing participant in the chaos along the boards, during overall puck battles, and even in front of the blue paint. 

At even strength, he was on the ice for 40 goals, he saw moderate work on the power play and penalty kill units, and his possession quality at even strength sat at plus-3.2. And best yet, he started to excel when the Blue and Gold possessed the puck toward the end of the year, meaning we shouldn’t be surprised if Benson breaks out from a points perspective in 2024-25. 

I won’t get so ambitious as to say Benson enjoyed a great year, but he was a good player, and there were stretches when you could argue he was one of the team’s better forwards. That said, maybe I ranked him too low, and if you believe that’s the case, you’re probably right. 

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(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)