With the eighth overall pick in the SBNation NHL mock draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets are proud to select, from the Michigan Wolverines, Zach Werenski.
Current Team: University of Michigan
Date of Birth: July 17, 1997
Place of Birth: Grosse Pointe, MI
Weight: 214 lbs
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.
The addition of Werenski bolsters a thin area in the CBJ organization. With Mike Reilly looking more and more like he's not going to sign with the Jackets, this leaves only Austin Madaisky, Dillon Heatherington, Ryan Collins, Blake Siebenaler and Olivier Leblanc in the defense pipeline. No disrespect to these players, but none project as top-pairing blueliners at the NHL level.
The Cannon writers took little time to decide on going "D" with this pick, with Ivan Provorov the other defenseman at the top of the list. With Philly taking Provorov, Werenski was at the top of our board. We're excited about adding a player with Werenski's skill level to the organization, and can only hope the CBJ do the same when the draft happens for real later this month.
For the other picks in the SBN NHL Mock Draft, be sure to check out the full results as they are announced.