Zach Benson Should Have the Attention of Blackhawks' Nation
By Kyle Graden
As we wind down the season and focus our attention towards the May 8th Draft Lottery, it is important to note that this upcoming draft is alot more about the depth of elite prospects and not just focused on Connor Bedard.
While I understand that "all chips into the center" mentality many fans seem to have on this draft, I consistently find myself drawn to Zach Benson. This is an elite forward. One, that in some years, I could see as a potential #1 overall player. I have written about him before in the past and am constantly referencing him in social media.
I suppose I just can't get off of this notion that I feel he would be a perfect fit to lead our new generation of Blackhawks. No, he is not a center, or a right shot dominate two way defenseman, he is a multi-tooled RW that has incredible skill that is only matched by his compete level.
Four days after the Draft Lottery Benson will turn 18 making him young for the class in comparison to many of the other top players. At only 5'10 and in Connor Bedard's shadow (both WHL stars) it seems many media and scouts are placing him outside the top 4-5 selections. This is a mistake in my opinion.
The Winnipeg Ice are a loaded team with 7 drafted players and many draft eligible stars in their ranks. They have 2 high picks from last year (Matt Savoie and Connor Geekie) as well as tremendous talents like Carson Lambos and Zack Ostapchuk. Thats 4 players that would headline most prospect pools right there..... and yet Zach Benson is the leader of this entire group. He is head and shoulders the most talented player on this extremely "stacked" team.
At present the Ice are just about to begin round 2 of the WHL playoffs against Moose Jaw. Winnipeg made quick work of Medicine Hat in round 1 with a quick 4-0 sweep. Benson finished the regular season third overall in scoring with 98 points in just 60 games. A top 20 scorer, but a top 10 assist man from the right dot as well as in and around the net area. His game is also a bit different as, even at his size and position, I could argue he wins most of his board battles and back checks more than most centers.
His strength at a young age is evident and he uses it to combine with his elite offensive IQ to consistently get his linemates A+ scoring opportunities. I know it's a bit pre-mature to say but I must admit there are many parts of his game that say he has a combination of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane to him. While I understand that would be a call to be taken 1st overall, keep in mind that Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli have a firm hold on the 1-2 spots for a reason as well.
No, I believe that Benson is so good that I wouldn't even hesitate to take him third overall. Will he go that high? I would say no as GMs will take Leo Carlsson, Will Smith, and others first. That's where in 5 years they will see this article and understand the error in their take on modern hockey. Blackhawks' fans, this is the guy we should be looking at if drafting 3rd and no one else.