The Buffalo Sabres signed 2023 first-rounder Zach Benson to a three-year, entry-level contract on Friday, following the club’s usual practice of getting their top picks signed in short order.
Happy Draft Day. Zach Benson rules pic.twitter.com/lqAXXOBA7D
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) June 28, 2023
The 13th overall pick had 98 points (36 goals, 62 assists) in 60 games for the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL last season, playing mostly with Sabres 2022 top pick Matthew Savoie, who were both selected for Team Canada’s summer camp for their 2024 World Junior squad in Sweden this December.
“(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 in Nashville last month.
The 18-year-old was considered a steal in the middle of the opening round, as scouts were appreciative of his skill and heart, as well as his energy and willingness to go to the dirty areas, in spite of being only 5’9″. 163 lb.
“There’s just certain kids that give you this feel that they’re a hockey player. They’re just winners and they have such a desire to play the game and compete. He checked all those boxes.” Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said of Benson. “(Zach is) a really intelligent player. There are times when he’ll slow things down and then he’ll speed it up. He can change the pace, but he’s fearless. He plays a hard game.”
Benson was the second of the 2023 draft class to be signed, as the club locked up second-rounder Anton Wahlberg earlier in the month. He is expected to return to the WHL after training camp to play for the Wenatchee Wild (the franchise moved from Winnipeg to Washington State in June), but it is unknown where Benson’s linemate/friend Savoie will end up since he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League and may have nothing to gain from another year in junior.