The 2015 NHL Draft is highlighted by flashy forwards like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Lawson Crouse. They’ve received the bulk of the attention, but who’s to say 10 years from now we won’t look back at this draft class and marvel at the defensive talent that emerges.
Zach Werenski is one of those defencemen who truly has the potential to be a stalwart blueliner in the NHL.
Here’s what you need to know about the University of Michigan standout.
Age on June 26: 17
Weight: 214 pounds
From: Grosse Pointe, Mich.
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): 9th
Marek’s Take: Excelled as a freshman at the University of Michigan. Saw plenty of ice and his game forced head coach Red Berenson to keep using him. Not the most physical blueliner but is really dangerous with the puck on his stick. Comparable: John Carlson
He graduated high school a year early…
The 17-year-old took extra classes last summer in order to go to college early. In fact, he became the youngest freshman to enroll in the University of Michigan hockey program since Red Berenson took over in 1984-85. Werenski made an impact as a freshman, scoring nine goals and 16 assists in 35 games while earning All Big Ten Hockey First Team honours and being named to the All Big Ten Freshman Team in 2014-15.
He’s yet another elite USA Hockey NTDP prospect…
Werenski spent the 2013-14 season split between the U.S. National Under-17 Team and their U18 team where he was defensive partners with fellow top prospect Noah Hanifin, whom he considers one of his good friends. That season Werenski was also teammates with the likes of Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Sonny Milano, Matthew Tkachuk and college teammate Dylan Larkin.
He looks up to a pair of young NHLers…
Werenski has said in the past that he tries to model his game after defencemen Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets and Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Like Werenski, both Trouba and Johnson played in the U.S. development program before attending Michigan. Johnson was selected third overall in 2005, while Trouba went ninth in 2012. There’s a strong chance Werenski could join them as a top-10 pick this year.
He puts defence first…
While he did lead all Big Ten blueliners in goals in 2014-15 and was second in total points, Werenski considers himself a true two-way defenceman and led his team in shot blocks with 59. Despite his youth, he has the attitude of a true professional already.
“I try my best to do all of the little things right to help the team win,” Werenski told maizenbrew.com earlier this year. “I’m open to work on things…If there’s something I need to work on I’ll definitely do that with any team…It’s defence first but whenever I get a chance to join the offense I’ll try and create offence.”
He supports his friends…
He’s in the Triple-C club. Cool, calm, collected…
Werenski is mature beyond his years on the ice. Here’s what NHL Central Scouting’s Greg Rajanen told NHL.com in April: “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 good player who will produce points and be solid defensively.”