Zach Werenski, 1st round (#8 overall), 2015 NHL Draft
The Blue Jackets entered the 2015 Draft with a lottery pick, and like every other team with ping pong balls in the machine, were hopeful that luck would pay off and they could land Connor McDavid, arguably the best prospect to enter the league in ten years. But fate was not fortunate for the Blue Jackets and they wound up with the eighth selection. Their consolation prize has turned out to be well worth it however, as they selected cornerstone defenseman Zach Werenski.
Werenski entered the draft as the consensus third best defense prospect, behind Noah Hanifin (5th overall, Carolina) and Ivan Provorov (7th, Philadelphia). When the Blue Jackets made their selection however, GM Jarmo Kekalainen was quick to point out that Werenski was their guy, and in the end the pick has worked out well.
Werenski entered the draft off of a strong season with the University of Michigan, scoring 9 goals and 25 points as a freshman. He would return to the Wolverines for one more year in 2015-16, improving his totals to 11 goals and 36 points in 36 games. With little left to prove at the collegiate level, Werenski turned pro in 2016 and turned heads immediately, not only making the Blue Jackets roster out of camp, but slotting right into the top defense pairing alongside Seth Jones. Werenski’s rookie season was outstanding, as he posted 11 goals and 47 points in 78 games, finishing 3rd in Calder Trophy voting for the top rookie in the NHL.
Werenski and Jones would become one of the premier defense tandems in the league for the Blue Jackets for several seasons, before Jones was dealt to Chicago last summer. But without missing a beat, Werenski stepped right up for the Blue Jackets and became a standout leader for their young defense corps, wearing a letter on his jersey and still being an offensive producer.
Already with 403 NHL games under his belt, Werenski has scored 76 goals and 237 points for the Blue Jackets, both totals are the most all-time by a defenseman in Columbus. A case will probably be made for Werenski as the greatest Blue Jacket of all time, should he play out his career in Columbus and remain healthy. If that holds true, he will succeed the #1 player on this list.