The Buffalo Sabres had to feel fortunate when their first-round pick came up at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, with prospects Matthew Wood, Axel Sandin-Pellikka, and Oliver Moore still on the board, but at 13th overall GM Kevyn Adams opted for familiarity with the selection of winger Zach Benson.
— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) June 29, 2023
The Chilliwack, BC native is someone that the Sabres have been watching for more than a year since he is the linemate of 2022 top pick Matthew Savoie.
“(Matthew and I) played the whole year together on the same line, killed (penalties) together, played on the powerplay together, so to now be sharing the same NHL jersey, it’s pretty amazing,” Benson said.
The connections to the Buffalo organization don’t end there. Benson has been under the tutelage of former Sabres defenseman James Patrick and played with current Sabre Peyton Krebs in his first WHL season as a 15-year-old.
“It’s been huge learning from a guy like James Patrick every day. It’s pretty awesome and you learn a lot of stuff from a guy that’s played 20 years in the NHL.” Benson said. ” “I learned a lot from Peyton. I was 15 (and it was) my first taste in the Western League and he taught me so many things. Whether (telling) me or just showing me on the ice and off the ice. He’s a super good leader and I think I said it before, he’s probably the best leader I’ve ever played with.”
The Hockey Prospect Black Book said of Benson
“Certain players stand out because of their mental game. Benson falls into a separate and rare category as a prospect.
He merges his skill with an incredible level of determination and heart that’s not teachable. You can’t teach a player to
play fearlessly, drive to the inside despite being physically disadvantaged; you can’t get a player to feel comfortable
while playing at a maximum pace unless it’s embedded in their DNA. That’s the difference between Benson and many
other players and it’s the reason he was dominant on one of the best teams in the WHL.”