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Sabres Grades: Benson Is a Workhorse



Zach Benson Buffalo Sabres grades

Zach Benson did not record a point in yesterday’s 4-1 victory of the Calgary Flames, but he sits atop the Sabres Grades from Sunday. As a team, Buffalo graded well. 13 of the 19 players that touched the ice registered average or better scores for their performance.

Must Read: Sabres Wear Down Tired Flames in 4-1 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: C
Offense: A-
Defense: A+
Special Teams: D+

About all that was missing from Benson’s game Sunday was finish. He was a force on the forecheck all game and made an incredible effort-play on the backcheck at the end of a shift. The rookie also won loose-puck battles consistently throughout the night and had scoring chances around the net.

Performances like this are becoming a staple for Benson, which is very encouraging for his future. If and when the scoring touch comes, he will be a complete, well-rounded player who can contribute in any situation.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Grade: A-

With 32 saves on 33 shots, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was tested and delivered. The Flames are a strong counter-rush team, and Luukkonen was able to foil every rush opportunity Sunday.

Luukkonen’s performance was a great bounce-back from Thursday, where he conceded eight goals to the Edmonton Oilers. The Sabres have grown accustomed to outstanding play from the Finnish netminder, so this grade is much more reflective of his overall performance this season.

Rasmus Dahlin

Grade: B+

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

When Rasmus Dahlin was on the ice, the play was in the offensive zone. Regardless of the four forward lines he was out there with, the Sabres were controlling the play. Dahlin is truly an elite two-way defenseman and he demonstrated that in Calgary.

It’s noteworthy that head coach Don Granato split up his pairing with Bowen Byram, who moved with Owen Power. Henri Jokiharju shifted back with Dahlin. Since Dahlin and Byram dominated offensively together, the move was likely about activating Power and Jokiharju more than a reflection of anything the former was doing wrong.


Jacob Bryson

Grade: D

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

There’s a bit of a downswing in Jacob Bryson’s performance over the last three games. He earned an “F” in Vancouver, a “D” in Edmonton, and now a “D” in Calgary. Maybe it’s fatigue, as the defenseman was in a depth role when with the Sabres for most of the year.

If Granato wants to work Kale Clague in for a game or two over the upcoming five-game homestand, Bryson is likely to come out of the lineup. Connor Clifton has made enough splash plays to impact the game in key moments positively, and, with the top four solidified, Bryson is the only remaining option.

Zemgus Girgensons

Grade: D

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

Zemgus Girgensons finds himself in the “duds” column for the second game in a row. His move away from Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch has left him without a clearly defined role on the ice. Instead, he’s bounced between the wing and center on the third and fourth lines in a survive-the-shift type role.

The Sabres have limited options to support a play-driving checking line that would better suit Girgensons’ game, so he’ll likely be an effort and energy player throughout the rest of the season.

Connor Clifton

Grade: D+

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

Connor Clifton was better defensively in Calgary than his partner, Bryson. He also added an empty-net goal, which doesn’t count toward the production score. Clifton’s now had four straight below-average performances, although he’s stepped up to make some impressive plays in that time.

His penalty-killing role and physicality are unique traits of the current Sabres blueline, so he’ll remain in the lineup. The team needs a bit more offense from its third pair, though. Limiting chances against is not enough.

Zach BensonF81%A-
Ukko-Pekka LuukkonenG77%A-
Rasmus DahlinD73%B+
Jordan GreenwayF71%B+
Tage ThompsonF67%B
Dylan CozensF66%B
Bowen ByramD64%B
Alex TuchF62%B-
Jj PeterkaF55%B-
Henri JokiharjuD49%C+
Owen PowerD46%C+
Peyton KrebsF44%C
Jeff SkinnerF41%C
Lukas RousekF35%C-
Victor OlofssonF29%D+
Eric RobinsonF29%D+
Connor CliftonD25%D+
Zemgus GirgensonsF22%D
Jacob BrysonD20%D