The Buffalo Sabres have announced that they have signed their 13th overall pick, forward Zach Benson, to a 3-year, entry-level contract. Benson is a strong offensive player who was selected in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft, tallying 36 goals and 62 assists in 60 games played with the CHL’s Winnipeg ICE. Standing at only 5’10 and weighing in at 159 lbs, he’s not the biggest player on the ice. Still, his hockey sense and playmaking abilities more than make up for his small size – and putting up more than a point per game pace allowed him to finish third in WHL scoring in the 2022-23 season, behind only fellow BC native Connor Bedard and Stars prospect Chase Wheatcroft.
Another plus for this signing is his familiarity with some of Buffalo’s other prospects – he played with last year’s ninth-overall pick, Matthew Savoie, spearheading Winnipeg’s special teams and their strong offense. Their familiarity with each other should help Benson adjust to the more intense demands of the NHL and provide the Sabres with a powerhouse scoring duo to bolster their already impressive offense. The Sabres should consider themselves lucky that he fell to thirteenth, despite draft projections placing him in the top ten – his offensive drive, keen hockey IQ, and solid two-way play promise positive steps forward for Buffalo’s depth as they plan to make a playoff push in the 2023-24 season. Benson is the second Sabres prospect from his draft class to sign his entry-level contract, with 39th overall pick Anton Wahlberg signing his own three-year contract on July 14.