The Buffalo Sabres have drafted and developed a number of youngsters currently playing in the NHL (Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Dylan Cozens), and the club under former GM Jason Botterill and current GM Kevyn Adams have been able to replenish the organization with young prospects. Throughout the month of August and leading into training camp next month, we will rank the club’s top prospects over the upcoming weeks based on their progress in either the NCAA, CHL, Europe, ECHL, or AHL and their potential to make the Sabres roster and make a contribution in the future. Players are eligible for the list if they have not played more than 40 NHL games and are 25 years old or younger:
#4 Zach Benson
The Sabres believe that a dynamic player fell into their laps at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, as at #13th overall they selected winger Zach Benson on the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. Buffalo’s scouting staff had more of an advantage and a bigger knowledge base on the 18-year-old forward since he was linemates with 2022 first-rounder Matthew Savoie, he was coached by former Sabre James Patrick and was a billet mate of current Sabre Peyton Krebs, but all that was secondary to his tantalizing offensive abilities, who Sabres scouts compared to Toronto’s Mitch Marner and Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point.
The 5’9″, 163 lb. winger thrived from the outset as a 16-year-old, scoring 20 points in an abbreviated WHL season in 2020-21. In the two years of junior leading into the draft, he compiled 161 points (61 goals, 100 assists) and 40 playoff points. Benson was one of the more impressive players at the Sabres Prospect Challenge last week. He will play in preseason games, but his immediate future would appear to be another year of junior in Wenatchee, WA (where the Winnipeg Ice moved this summer) and a likely position on Team Canada for the 2024 World Juniors in Sweden.
Hockey Prospect’s Black Book said about 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, and 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.”