In the No. 9 spot on the NHL’s Central Scouting list for North American skaters, we meet our third defenseman and third U.S. college product in the top 10.
Zach Werenski becomes the latest product of the USNTDP to make the jump to the University of Michigan before an NHL career.
It’s the same path taken by current Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, though each of those players was drafted before their freshman year in Ann Arbor. To find a true freshman defenseman to be taken in the first round off the Wolverines roster, we must go back to 2006 when the Anaheim Ducks took defenseman Mark Mitera.
Mitera never played in the NHL, but Werenski, who models his game after Johnson, is expected to be an impact player on the back end for years to come.
Werenski put up nine goals and 25 points in 35 games for Red Berenson's Michigan team to lead the Wolverines defense in scoring, along with adding a goal and an assist for Team USA at the World Junior Championships. His nine goals were the most of any defenseman in the Big Ten Conference, and his 25 points ranked second.
Werenski is a solid two-way defender who also led the Wolverines with 59 blocked shots on the year, along with a plus-9 rating. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he was of the more physically rounded defenseman in the draft.
Werenski won’t turn 18 until July and was the youngest player in the country this past season, but that didn’t stop him from being highly effective against stiff competition in one of the country’s tougher conferences. The youngster could find himself on the Blue Jackets’ radar not just for his skill, but for the poise he shows beyond his years.
Here's Greg Rajanen of NHL Central Scouting, on Werenski's game:
“He's such a cool, calm and collected player. He's the type of player you have to watch a little closely to realize how good he is. He's smart, always in the right spot, moves the puck and makes all the plays. But not in a 'wow' sort of way like Hanifin does. At the next level Werenski will be a really a good player who will produce points and be solid defensively."