The 2023 NHL Draft took place in Nashville, TN, Tuesday night. In the midst of a period of re-righting the ship, the Buffalo Sabres used their only pick in the first round to draft forward Zach Benson of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. Benson is a 5’10” 159 pound offensive threat who can slot in on the wing or in the middle. A native of Chilliwack, B.C., the 18-year-old skater played in 60 games last season for the Winnipeg Ice, putting up 36 goals and 62 assists in a 98-point season.
Touted as one of the most offensively talented players available in this year’s draft, Benson plays with style that is larger than he is. Around the league, comparisons have been between Benson’s game and players such as Jonathan Marchessault, Johnny Gaudreau, and Brayden Point. Playing alongside fellow Sabres prospect Matthew Savoie, Benson led the Winnipeg Ice in scoring and finished third place in scoring in the WHL. Benson brings a skillset that includes slick puckhandling and an excellent hockey IQ to the line-up, making him a player who has the capability to read plays and find opportunities. In addition to his offensive prowess, he also possesses a sound defensive play style by staying active in the defensive end and finding ways to move the puck out of the zone. His work ethic and compete level come highly praised and should be a welcome fit in Buffalo. Overall, Benson is an excellent pick with the up-side of being a high-end top-six forward.