Well… the short answer is yes.
The long answer? Abso-frickin-lutely.
Even the biggest Zach Benson fans didn’t expect him to be in the NHL in his D+1, but none of them were shocked his skills translated so quickly.
I’ll preface this by apologizing for my lack of prospect ramblings this season; school has been so time-consuming that I’ve forgotten it’s been Monday quite a few times, but I’m back! No better way to get back into this than a story about quite possibly my favourite drafted NHL prospect (barring Lane Hutson of course) – Zachary Ruben Benson.
NHL Standout at 18 Years Old
Zach Benson first caught my eye while scouting the Winnipeg Ice in 2021 – looking at Matthew Savoie and Connor Geekie. Despite being a 5-8, 150 pound 16 year old, Benson was already the best player on a team with two 2022 top-12 picks on the roster, and he continued to excel in his draft year. His 98 points last year were great, but his two-way game is what always excited me about Benson. The offensive creativity is fantastic, but the way he can backcheck and be a positive impact defensively despite being undersized was what made him stand out.
He’s absolutely got that metaphorical ‘dawg’ in him, and he shows it every night.
After a training camp that proved a lot of public scouts right (and a lot of GM’s wrong!), Benson got the opportunity to play in the NHL. Not only that, he is playing solid middle-six minutes, and has a career high of over 17 minutes of ice time under his belt already. This kid is the real deal, and he made the highlight reels with his first NHL goal.
Like… that’s not even fair! There is so much skill in his young game. Beyond the highlight reel, however, he has also been just a solid NHLer.
After his nine-game stint was up (a tenth game would officially start his ELC, making him ineligible for a slide), he got the call from the Sabres GM – he would be sticking around.
So. What makes Benson so good so soon?
It’s simple – his ability to create plays on both ends of the ice makes his teammates better.
He has the ability to find creative lanes, and he uses his size to his advantage to avoid defenders.
His analytics are fantastic as well, with an overall season total of 47.06% GF (the Sabres haven’t been very good to be fair), and he has had standout games where he has been a true possession monster.
The 2023 crop of prospects is already tearing up the league, with Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson equally lighting up the league at 18. It may be early, but I’m very confident that Zach Benson falling to 13th overall will be brought up as a major gaffe for years to come. This class is very special.