Related: Eduard Sale
Zach Benson is one of the smartest players in the 2023 draft class; he frequently scans in all three zones, processes the information he gathers with impressive quickness, and executes those reads with great precision. He’s an unbelievably skilled player who drives play, and handles the puck well, especially at top speed, which makes those around him better. The Winnipeg Ice fireplug sub-6-foot winger is a high-energy, hard-driving, in-your-face player. He is not a pretty skater but he more than gets there, and when he does, he has the ability to score, make plays, and be a disruptive influence. Zach Benson had a breakthrough in the 2021-22 season when he put up 25 goals and 63 points in 58 regular season games with the Winnipeg ICE of the WHL; then in the playoffs, he put up 9 goals and 23 points in 15 games. Benson got off to a hot start to the 2022-23 campaign after putting up 7 points in 5 games with Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and already has 8 goals and 22 points in 16 games with the Winnipeg ICE.
Despite being undersized, his intelligence, and dynamic play-driving abilities make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2023 Draft.
Size/Strength Below Average
Physical Play Good
Offensive Play Excellent
Defensive Play Average
Hockey Sense Excellent
1. Benson is one of the smartest players in the 2023 draft class, processes the information he gathers with impressive quickness, and executes those reads with great precision.
2. He plays with a lot of energy as his motor never stops. He has a great work ethic, speed, and hands to be extremely difficult to contain in the offensive zone.
3. Playmaking forward, with quick hands and lethal puck-handling ability, and makes those around him better.
Areas of Improvement
1. His Play in the Defensive zone needs to be improved, as he has a tendency to puck-watch too much.
2. Some scouts may be concerned about his size.
Zach Benson may be undersized at 5-10 and 150 pounds, but his style of play based on intelligent off-puck movements, constant scanning, excellent edgework, and playing through pressure makes his NHL projection a very clear one, so his size isn’t a huge concern. His intelligence is his most outstanding quality. He gathers information with great frequency and consistency with excellent scanning habits, he processes this information at lightning speed, and he executes the best option he finds with great precision, whether it be on or off-puck, offensively or defensively. Benson’s hands and edges work at the same speed as his mind, which makes him an extremely slippery, adaptable, and dangerous puck carrier. He’s also very composed with the puck on his stick, and he’s constantly scanning for passing and skating lanes to plan his next move, even when he’s under pressure. In transition, he uses his lane-finding ability, intelligence, and puck skills to enter the zone and then uses a refined delay game to cut open defenses, regularly hitting a trailing teammate with a dart of a cross-seam pass. When he hangs on to the puck, he likes to cut to the slot and either shoot from there or pass to a teammate that becomes open due to the attention Benson attracts by attacking a high-danger area. While his playmaking is his greatest offensive tool, his shot shouldn’t be undersold. His shooting stance can be quite upright and stiff, but his release is quick and accurate. His top speed is quite decent, but especially for a player of his stature, the quickness and acceleration need to improve. Defensively, Benson uses his intelligence, edgework, and active stick to break up play and be a net positive in his own zone. In multiple-variable defensive scenarios, Benson can puck-watch for just long enough for his man to get through on goal, but with his frequent scanning habits, this should iron itself out rather quickly. The NHL Comparison is Brad Marchand, his relentless puck pursuit and forechecking ability, as well as his high motor, remind me a lot of Marchand; like Marchand, he may not be the biggest guy, but he is usually one of the more dominant players on a night to night basis. Zach Benson has the potential to be a top-6 forward in the NHL and should be a top-10 pick in next year’s
Skill: Smart, All-around Forward, with a great work ethic, speed and play-driving ability
NHL Comparable: Brad Marchand
NHL Potential: Top 6 Winger
|2022-23||Canada U18||Hlinka Gretzky Cup||5||2||7|
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