Author of the best first goal of his career in years, Zach Benson convinced the Buffalo Sabers to keep him in the lineup for the entire season.
The young 18-year-old forward will play the 10th game of the 2023-2024 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, which will activate the first year of his rookie contract. Head coach Don Granato has no regrets.
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“He was good from the first day of camp. As I said before, if he wasn’t good and competent without the puck, in his positioning and play, he wouldn’t have made the team. Then he showed his qualities and real ability to improve game after game. I believe he continued to add strings to his bow, because he is an intelligent player,” Granato explained in the pre-match press briefing.
The 13th pick in the last draft collected five points in nine games, but none as good as his first goal in the National League. On Wednesday, Benson maneuvered close to Washington Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper before taking him down with a shot between the legs.
“Obviously I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said Friday. You have to have that confidence at that level if you want to be successful. My confidence has never been shaken. I was confident from day one. It shows how welcoming this group was and how quickly they make you feel comfortable here.”
“I’d say I’m a bit of a hockey geek so I like to learn as much as I can about the sport. This is what I do, what I have done and what I will continue to do,” said the British Columbian, a former Winnipeg Ice junior.
Benson is the fourth player from his vintage guaranteed to play the entire campaign in the Bettman circle after Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli, the first three picks in the auction.