Jared Bednar will do his best to get Zach Werenski into the mix right away.
He only met his newest defenseman on Tuesday morning when Werenski drove to Cleveland from Ann Arbor with his dad, shortly after signing an amateur tryout contract with the Monsters and then his entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets.
And though it’s been a short time together so far, Bednar knows this about the 18-year-old Michigan product: he is “an elite talent” with skills on both ends of the rink, and while there will be an adjustment to the professional game, he expects him to get up to speed quickly.
Werenski will make his professional debut tonight against the Chicago Wolves, wearing No. 8 on defense for the Monsters as they continue their playoff chase in the AHL’s Western Conference.
“I’m super excited,” Werenski said. “I’ve heard great things (about the Monsters). They’re going to make a playoff run and I’m excited to be part of it.”
The Monsters are coming off one of their biggest weekends of the season, winning three times in three days and improving to 6-2-0 in their last eight overall. They swept Rockford at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday and Friday before heading up to Grand Rapids to complete the weekend trifecta.
“It was a complete team effort,” Bednar said. “That’s what you need this time of year. Now it’s up to us to follow it up this weekend and be ready to play right from the drop of the puck.”
And with respect to his club’s newest addition, Bednar is taking a measured approach with Werenski but is optimistic he’ll make an impact.
“We’re not expecting miracles right away,” Bednar said. “He’s obviously a gifted player and an elite talent. He’s ahead of the game from a size and strength and skating perspective. There’s going to be an adjustment coming out of college and getting into the pro game.
“He’s going to jump into our special teams, he’s going to play a regular shift. We’re going to try and get him up to speed and contributing in as big a way as he possibly can leading into the playoffs.”