Columbus Blue Jackets: Development of Zach Werenski


Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect Update – Development of Zach Werenski

During the 2015 NHL Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Zach Werenski with the eighth overall pick.  The 18 year old currently sits as the top defensive prospect in the Blue Jackets organization, joining a young blue line anchored by Seth Jones, Ryan Murray and David Savard.  While the three above mentioned players are seeing success at the NHL level, Werenski has the potential to be the future star of the Blue Jackets defense.

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What is he doing now?

The 18 year old Werenski has been busy this season, leading the blue line for the Michigan Wolverines and having captained the US U20 team to a bronze medal in Finland.  In collegiate play, the young blue liner is averaging near a point per game with 22 points through 28 games. With impressive offensive totals, Weresnki has focused on developing his defensive game and gap-control this season.

Werenski’s growth was put on display during the U20 tournament, as he stuck out as a top defender in international play against similar aged players.  Contributing offensively, quarterbacking his teams power play and making smart defensive decisions were the skills that impressed on the international stage.  Not only did Werenski tally 9 points through 7 games, the defender boasted an impressive plus/minus of plus 10.  If Werenski’s collegiate performance in his sophomore year was not leaving you convinced, his impressive World Junior Tournament should have addressed any concerns.

What can we expect from Werenski next season?

The Blue Jackets and fans need to remember that Werenski is only 18 years old, despite his impressive resume.  The defender has a play style reminiscent of New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh and a similar development progression is a fair projection.  The individuals share a similar size, offensive punch and two-way responsibility, which is promising for the Blue Jackets.

Next: Tyutin's Future in Columbus

While there is a chance Werenski returns to the University of Michigan for his junior season next year, he is expected to push Jarmo and the Blue Jackets for a roster spot in training camp.  Zach Werenski could step in as the undisputed fifth defenseman now, if he choses to make the move.  Yes, Werenski will have a learning curve once he makes the jump to the NHL, which means he will likely see extended time on the teams bottom pairing.  If, however, Werenski adapts quickly, continues to develop his game and improves upon his steady two-way play; he can push for second pairing minutes and power play time as soon as the season’s midway point.  There is a very real possibility that we see a Zach Werenski and David Savard pairing in the next year and that prospect should have Columbus fans excited.