Chilliwack’s Zach Benson is in the spotlight Wednesday night (Jan. 25), skating in the CHL Top Prospects Game. Taking place at the Langley Events Centre, the showcase will feature 40 stars from the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
The game starts at 7 p.m. pitting Team Red against Team White.
Participating players were identified in a survey of National Hockey League (NHL) teams, who want to get a look at them before the entry draft in June. Benson, 17, is a winger playing for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice who has produced 25 goals and 65 points in 38 games.
Various NHL draft projections agree that the five-foot-nine speedster should be a top 10 pick. Sportsnet draft expert Sam Cosentino ranks him eight while the TSN duo of Bob McKenzie and Craig Button rank him fifth and ninth respectively.
“Brilliant imagination and creativity, combined with excellent ability to be elusive, makes Benson a very challenging player for opponents,” said Button, a former NHL general manager. “Plays to his strengths and forces opposing players to play on his terms. Excellent hands in tight.”
Benson is a Chilliwack Minor Hockey alum who also played at Abbotsford’s Yale Hockey Academy and spent one season with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds U18 program. He’s in his third season with the Ice.
He’ll be sharing the ice with the headliner in the Top Prospects Game, North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard. As good a season as Benson has had, he finds himself looking up at Bedard in the WHL scoring race. Benson is No. 2, but he’s 18 points behind his rival who is putting up video game numbers with the WHL’s Regina Pats. The centre has an absurd 39 goals and 81 points in 33 games as a 17-year-old and his strong play has many Vancouver Canuck fans hoping the team will lose enough to be in position to draft the potentially generational player.