Chilliwack’s Zach Benson can now and forevermore say he’s a National Hockey League draft pick. And not just that, but a first rounder.
The 17-year-old was picked 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday (June 28), becoming the second highest drafted Chilliwackian in NHL history. Dave Archibald went sixth overall in 1987.
“I’m super stoked to be a Buffalo Sabre,” Benson told sabres.com reporter Jourdon LaBarber.
The Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) alum played for the Western Hockey League’s Winnipeg Ice last season, finishing third in the league with 98 points (36 goals) in just 60 games. There was talk he’d be a top 10 pick when NHL teams gathered in Nashville, TN., and the Vancouver Canucks bypassed the local kid with the 11th pick. Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams was happy Benson dropped.
“This player has the upside that often you don’t get at that spot at the draft,” Adams told LaBarber. “The way the list was falling, we were starting to get pretty excited this player might be there for us.”
Adams said Benson’s work with the Ice impressed everyone in the organization, from scouts to the development staff to the analytics department.
“They just generally walked away from the game saying he was the best player on the ice - no matter what or who the scout was or when they saw him.”
After he was drafted, a CMHA Facebook post said Zach is the epitome of what a hockey player should be.
“His immense talent is only surpassed by his unparalleled work ethic. Practice, game, dryland or mini sticks, he only knows one way to play, 100 per cent. We feel he is the best 200-foot player in the NHL draft. With a motor that never shuts off, Benson is an elite defensive specialist despite being one of the most prolific scorers in all of junior hockey.
“The cherry on top for this elite talent is the character he continues to display off the ice. In every interview he praises linemates, coaches, past coaches and parents for all of his success. He has what every kid dreams of and that is a support group like no other. If you have ever attended one of his games, you know the Benson clan comes out in full force to support. Darcy and Jaclyn are as committed as parents can be to all three of their boys. They are representative of every member of CMHA who sacrifice all of their time for their kids. In the Benson clan, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins come out in droves to support one another like nothing I’ve ever seen. Their family is inspirational when it comes to supporting their own.”