Current Team: University of Michigan
Date of Birth: July 17, 1997
Place of Birth: Grosse Pointe, MI
Weight: 214 lbs
Much like Noah Hanifin, Zach Werenski accelerated his schooling and started playing hockey at the University of Michigan a year earlier than expected. If not for Hanifin's season, Werenski would have received much more attention for performing so well as a 17-year old in college - the youngest player in NCAA Hockey, actually. A Michigan native, Werenski went through the U.S. NTDP before heading off to college at age 17. He compares his game to former Wolverines Jacob Trouba and (current Jacket) Jack Johnson. He still has time to mature physically, and should he grow into his 6'2'' frame he could very well follow in Johnson's footsteps as a physical, two-way defender in the NHL. His final rankings among this year's class are a bit scattered, but the general consensus is that he'll go somewhere between 6 and 8 at the Draft.
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)
Zach Werenski is a mobile, two-way defender. He has outstanding speed, which gives him the ability to join the rush, or pinch at the blueline and still be able to cover up defensively at the NCAA level. He has outstanding edge work and agility, giving him the ability to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes on the powerplay. His pivots are also very good, allowing to transition quickly from offence to defence or vice-versa. As a result of his strong skating, Werenski is able to cover a lot of ice. He has the power and balance to fight through checks, and win board battles.
However, his overall defensive game does need some work. He can sometimes follow the puck too much, and get himself out of position as a result. He also needs some work on reading the play defensively. These things should come with maturity and coaching over the next several years though. (Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports)
Assets: Slick, mobile defender with an aggressive offensive style. Makes good decisions heading up the ice and moves the puck well. Controls the pace of the game.
Flaws: Can add some muscle to his 6'2'' frame. Gap control, not attacking sensibly in the offensive zone, and sometimes not reading the play correctly defensively. Not overly physical yet.
Top pair defenseman in all situations, eventually. Definitely top 4 and PP quarterback in a few years. Has drawn comparison to Jack Johnson and Keith Yandle in playing style.
A Good Fit in Columbus?
Absolutely. Not only will Werenski potentially be available at #8, he'd get a chance to learn under a guy he looks up to in Jack Johnson (after one more year in college, most likely). He plays a strong two-way game and packs a punch on offense. With Fedor Tyutin aging (and a UFA in a few years) and Ryan Murray's health concerns, it wouldn't be a bad idea to add a defender with top-4 potential if Werenski is available.
Werenski in Action