2015 NHL DRAFT: Jackets Select Zach Werenski at #8 Overall
They wanted a stud defenseman, and he fell right into their laps.
Though the Blue Jackets were clearly attempting to trade up in this year's NHL entry draft, linked to the 3rd overall and 6th overall picks at several points over the last week, it wasn't in the cards.
Selecting 8th overall, Columbus got a little bit of luck when players like Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome, and Pavel Zacha were taken ahead of defensive studs Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorov. Reports from the Dispatch's Aaron Portzline had indicated that Werenski and Hanifin were at the top of the team's draft board, which likely means they were quite satisfied with that turn of events.
The pick also marks the second year in a row that the Jackets have taken a US born player with their first round pick - and for that matter, a player who has committed to an NCAA team, though Sonny Milano did eventually go to the OHL.
Here's a look at the scouting reports from our Draft Prospect Profile on our newest Blue Jacket:
A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that has a strong understanding of the game. Excels in key situations and is able to execute under pressure. Possesses good vision and awareness on the ice; uses his abilities to put offensive and defensive pressure on the opposition. All-in-all, a very strong all-around defenceman that consistently brings his game every night. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)
Smart and reliable two-way defenseman...shows skill at both ends of the ice...is a good skater with a smooth stride and fluid movements...handles the puck well with decent hand-skill, good strength and some elusiveness with it as he moves through the neutral zone...makes a great first pass and outlet...has good poise and vision with the puck on his stick...has a decent wrist shot, which he'll take from the point...isn't overly physical on defense and he needs to play tougher and meaner than he does...has good reach and he uses his stick well to take away lanes and force players wide and off the puck...poised on defense and recovers well. (August 2014 - Future Considerations)
The really interesting question coming out of tonight will be what happens next - Werenski is likely to attend prospect camp next week down at Nationwide Arena, but after that he'll have a choice to make. Sign his ELC and make a run at the NHL this season, with the possibility of going to Major Junior if he doesn't make the cut? Or stick with the NCAA and spend another couple of years developing in the University of Michigan program?
Either way, it's clear that Columbus just got a blue chip prospect who has the potential to become a cornerstone of their blueline for many, many years, and didn't have to burn any of their assets to do it. An excellent start to the weekend for Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting team.