The Case For Zach Benson To Play On Opening Night

Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

Back in a prior article, I talked about the Sabres’ prospect challenge. Among other things, the pairing of Zach Benson and Matt Savoie was a main focus. The pair lit up juniors, and I fully expected them to put on a show. Even though Savoie was injured in the challenge’s final game, he dominated every game. I figured I would be writing about him later in the preseason process. Well, here we are. His counterpart, Zach Benson, has a serious chance to make this team as an 18-year-old. Where did this come from? I don’t know, but Benson’s high level of play this early has me remembering a certain German center.

The Comparison

Just to be clear, Leon Draisaitl is not my play style comparison to Benson. I’d call him a Brayden Point speedy playmaker type. But they may end up having similar career paths. Both had impressive preseasons, playing with their team’s top players. Both had monster junior seasons pre-draft. And I believe both will start opening night for the team that drafted them. Benson is that good. But what makes him stand out?

Related Article: 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Zach Benson

The Skillset

Benson has put up 4 points in 4 preseason games and has been playing first line and first power play minutes. You don’t see that often. The scoring is great, but it’s his ability to produce on a line with Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson that really stands out. It takes high-level processing and an elite complementary skill set to keep up with the 2 highest scoring forwards on the squad. Benson has the speed to keep up with those guys and really complements Thompson’s dynamic offensive play. With a center like Tage, you want smart, skilled playmakers on the wings. Benson has excellent vision, and he knows how to pick his spots. He’s also a very unselfish player. All these things also translate into being a great bumper for the excellent Sabres power play. It just seems to be a perfect fit.

The Verdict

If I am Kevyn Adams, it’s simple. If coach Don Granato likes what he sees in the 18-year-old, keep him on the roster. The Oilers sent Draisaitl down during the first season he played. But the NHL experience was obviously beneficial to arguably the second-best player in hockey. Benson has that kind of upside. I don’t believe it would hurt the Sabres to give the kid a real chance.

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