Zach Benson Falling to 15th Would be So Perfect for Nashville Predators

Zach Benson #9 of the Winnipeg ICE celebrates his second period goal against the Portland Winterhawks at Wayne Fleming Arena on January 08, 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)
Zach Benson #9 of the Winnipeg ICE celebrates his second period goal against the Portland Winterhawks at Wayne Fleming Arena on January 08, 2023 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images) /

You’re always looking for the draft day steals in the mid-first round, so can the Nashville Predators be lucky enough to draft Zach Benson?

One of the most difficult first round prospects to gauge on where they might land is Benson, and the Nashville Predators should be praying with everything they have that he falls to the 15th overall pick.

Benson spent last season in the WHL with the Winnipeg Ice and racked up 98 points in 60 games and added another 17 points in the playoffs. His plus/minus was a whopping plus-68.

The Nashville Predators enter the 2023 NHL Entry Draft in less than two weeks with 13 picks, including two in the first round, two in the second round, three in the third round and three in the fourth round. Needless to say, they have loads of draft capital.

It makes you wonder if the Nashville Predators are going to try to move up from that 15th overall spot and get into a loaded top-10 of the draft to land a potential generational talent.

Zach Benson Would be a Potential Home Run Pick for the Nashville Predators

This is where the uncertainty of where Benson will land comes into place. Many scouts think Benson can be a top-10 talent, but being undersized at 5’10” and 159 pounds is why some mock drafts think Benson could end up sliding.

Kyle Pereira, who scouts prospects for Last Word on Sports thinks that the “undersized” narrative is overblown and that if somehow the Predators were able to draft Benson at 15th, it could be a home run pick and steal that other teams will end up regretting down the road:

"He has great knee and ankle bend, and being a little smaller allows him to have a lower center of gravity. Adding those great technical abilities to his strong edges and acceleration, plus the low center of gravity, he can skate through a tight lane in the neutral zone to gain the offensive zone.”"

I’m afraid to fall too far into the fantasy that Benson slide all the way back to 15th overall, and I feel with nearly a 100 percent certainty that if the Predators want Benson that bad, they’ll have to facilitate some sort of trade up. Even if that means moving up just a couple spots.

However, Benson looks like the perfect prospect for what new General Manager Barry Trotz is looking for, which is playing with more speed and aggressiveness on the offensive end, per Emma Lingan of the Nashville Predators official website.

“I want our team to play faster. I want our team to play with more skill and learn. I want those pillars of Predator relentlessness and determination…. I think to the core values of this organization, if you put out your best effort, the fan base and everybody will recognize “. -Barry Trotz on the “Predator Way”, per the Team’s Official Website

Benson plays with a relentless style of play both on the puck, through forechecking, and also in transition. He rarely takes plays off and flashes the offensive traits that Trotz is looking for.

Again, it would be a mini miracle in my opinion if Benson falls to No.15, but trading up a few spots with a team that maybe isn’t as high on Benson might be an option.

There’s still a very realistic possibility that Benson does indeed go in the top-10, where in that case it will be a lot more difficult for the Predators to move up into that coveted part of the draft. It will take giving up a prospect of your own, a couple draft picks and maybe even a current starter.

If that’s the case, maybe you shy away from pulling the trigger on Benson and you stay put at the 15th pick. That’s awfully risky, but at the same time, Trotz has made it clear they’re going to “take some swings”.

Teams don’t just give away top-10 picks usually because almost always those teams are rebuilding and need those high end draft picks badly for their own rebuilds.

Benson is the No.10 prospect by Elite Prospects, No.5 by Daily Faceoff, No.9 by Hockey News and No.14 by Craig Button of TSN. Again, it’s the size questions that are really the only reason he’s not top-10, along with this being an extremely top heavy draft class.

In other words, a lot of top-10 talented prospects will go as far back as No.15, which is a beautiful thing for the Nashville Predators.

Benson is my top hopeful prospect to possibly fall to the Nashville Predators. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that enough teams pass on him or even that the Predators can pull off a trade up to get him, but with that said, there are plenty of other really good prospects that fit the same need that Trotz wants if Benson isn’t available.

Just think about it; a future Predators forward core of Luke Evangelista, Cody Glass, Philip Tomasino, Thomas Novak, Joakim Kemell, Egor Afanasyev and throw Benson in there. That’s a lot of speed and raw offensive talent.

Heck, that’s leaving out Filip Forsberg who will be around for a while, Juuso Parssinen and Roman Josi who isn’t going anywhere.

Either way, the Nashville Predators need to really nail this first round pick. You’re never going to hit on all of your draft picks, but this draft in particular is vital to get through this “rebuild” or “retool” quickly and get back to competing for deep playoff runs in the next couple of years.