Blue Jackets’ Werenski: Maple Leafs forwards ‘a big challenge’

Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski says that he welcomes any chance to play against the best players in the world, and looks forward to shutting down the Toronto Maple Leafs' high-end offence.

The play-in series between the No. 8 seed Toronto Maple Leafs and No. 9 seed Columbus Blue Jackets could come down to Toronto’s offensive firepower versus Columbus’s defensive depth.

Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski said Friday during an appearance on Hockey Central that he and his teammates are “excited” to take on the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.

Werenski forms a dynamic top pair with American compatriot Seth Jones and the duo is expected to log heavy minutes against Toronto’s imposing top-six.

“Everyone in the league and everyone who watches hockey, everyone knows how talented they are offensively,” Werenski said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “When you go up against the best players in the world, as a defenceman, that’s your job to try and shut them down. It’s a big challenge but me and Jonesy and our D corps is really excited about it.

“Anytime you can go up against the best players in the world it’s always fun and they have a few of them on their team. We know they’re a highly offensive team but we’re focussed on us right now, what makes us successful and how we’re going to have success in the series.”

Zach Werenski excited to face Maple Leafs' top guns
July 31 2020

The 23-year-old led all defencemen with a career-high 20 goals during the regular season and was on pace to surpass the 50-point mark for the first time in his NHL career.

Werenski scored in the first period of Thursday’s 4-1 exhibition win over the Bruins. He said the way his team performed against Boston was a “step in the right direction” but knows the games against Toronto will have an entirely different level of intensity.

The Blue Jackets begin their series against the Maple Leafs on Sunday at Scotiabank Arena. Fans can watch Game 1 on Sportsnet starting at 8 p.m. ET.

“Come Sunday it’s a different animal, it’s a different game,” Werenski added. “Playoffs start for real and although there’s no real advantage with no fans, it is in their building and we’re excited to get in there and show what we can do as a team.”

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