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Sabres Grades: Benson Rolls Despite Phantom Penalties



Zach Benson Buffalo Sabres grades

Thursday night, the Buffalo Sabres had one of their best home efforts of the season against the New York Islanders. The 4-0 win comes after a seven-goal explosion in their previous game against the Detroit Red Wings, tightening the gap in the standings. Led by Zach Benson, the Sabres posted some of their best collective grades of the season.

Must Read: Luukkonen Shuts Out Islanders in 4-0 Sabres Victory

If you missed the introduction to the grading system, we’re assigning letter grades to each Buffalo player based on game performance. The letter grades are assigned based on statistical computation, taking into account the following factors:

  • Production
  • Quality of offense
  • Quality of defense
  • Volume of offense
  • Volume of defense
  • Powerplay performance
  • Penalty kill performance
  • Penalties drawn and taken
  • Role
  • Minutes played
GradeLower LimitUpper Limit


Zach Benson

Grade: A-

Production: B
Offense: A-
Defense: A
Special Teams: D+

Zach Benson has found his scoring touch. The 18-year-old rookie has three goals and two assists in the last two games.

“My mindset coming into every game is just compete,” Benson said postgame. “Once you compete, skill takes over.”

The skill is certainly rearing its head, coming at the right time for the Sabres. If Benson can continue establishing himself as an offensive threat for the Sabres, it adds a whole new dynamic to the team.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Grade: B+

The calming presence of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the net is the driving force behind Buffalo’s turnaround. Against the Islanders, he not only made big saves – he made every save.

Sure, the Sabres played in the offensive zone throughout most of the first two periods, leaving Luukkonen to twiddle his thumbs. Still, the focus coming from the Buffalo cage is unwavering. The resonating confidence is producing results.

In this contest, Luukkonen saved over a goal and a half more than expected, totaling 22.9 goals saved above expected since the turn of the new year per Evolving-Hockey. That’s only second to Jordan Binnington of the St.Louis Blues in that span.

Dylan Cozens

Grade: B+

Production: C
Offense: B+
Defense: A
Special Teams: B-

The evolution of Dylan Cozens into Buffalo’s premier shutdown center has been a revelation for the club. The difference between Cozens and your stereotypical defensive forward is that he’s driving play into the offensive zone. This forces the opposition to play defense instead of offense.

It also allows Cozens to produce as well. His goal was crucial to establishing insurance on an already-established lead. The Sabres have found something with the trio of Cozens, Benson, and Jordan Greenway.


Victor Olofsson

Grade: C-

Production: C
Offense: D
Defense: B
Special Teams: C-

Labeling anyone as a “dud” from Thursday’s game is probably a slight, since no one graded below a C- on the Sabres. Victor Olofsson also scored the initial goal, which helped open the floodgates for Buffalo.

Relatively speaking, the Swedish forward played the least minutes and posted the second-lowest offensive grade at even strength, which hindered his grade. His ability to score from anywhere on the powerplay is a nice supplement to Buffalo’s solid five-on-five play though, so there is benefit to keeping him in the lineup.

Eric Robinson

Grade: C-

Production: D-
Offense: D
Defense: B+
Special Teams: N/A

The real takeaway from Eric Robinson’s grade against the Islanders is the B+ in the defense column. A score like that is everything you can ask of the big fourth liner, as keeping opponents off the scoresheet allows the rest of the group to get it done offensively.

Unfortunately, Robinson doesn’t bring that extra element to the lineup like Olofsson. He may be part of the defensive solution, but there’s no special team usage to warrant keeping him in the lineup. If Lukas Rousek gets another chance to play on the upcoming road trip, it’s likely Robinson who deserves to come out of the lineup – not Olofsson.

Tyson Jost

Grade: C-

Production: D+
Offense: D
Defense: B+
Special Teams: N/A

Tyson Jost has brought the right mindset and work ethic to the group ever since his AHL recall. The versatile center has been tenacious on the puck, fitting perfectly with the hard, forechecking style the Sabres have shown over the last couple of games.

He’s a by-product of his peers though, as his line played okay but not great. The rest of the team shined, so the Sabres’ fourth line ended up in the “duds” for this one. If they average a C- grade and end up here after every game, however, it’s an indicator that the team is doing something right.

Zach BensonF80%A-
Ukko-Pekka LuukkonenG76%B+
Dylan CozensF74%B+
Owen PowerD73%B+
Jeff SkinnerF72%B+
Jordan GreenwayF72%B+
Jj PeterkaF69%B
Connor CliftonD60%B-
Henri JokiharjuD60%B-
Tage ThompsonF59%B-
Rasmus DahlinD57%B-
Peyton KrebsF52%C+
Jacob BrysonD49%C+
Zemgus GirgensonsF49%C+
Bowen ByramD45%C
Alex TuchF44%C
Tyson JostF37%C-
Victor OlofssonF36%C-
Eric RobinsonF36%C-