Welcome to the penultimate day of The Cannon’s Top 25 Under 25 series! Throughout the month of August, we have been counting down the top 25 players and prospects under the age of 25.
Today, we take a look at the runner up for the title: defenseman Zach Werenski.
2nd out of 55 eligible players (2845 points)
Highest placement: #1 (3 ballots)
Most common placement: #2 (71 ballots)
Birthdate: July 19, 1997
Birthplace: Grosse Pointe, Michigan
Weight: 209 lbs
Acquired: Drafted by Columbus in Round 1 (8th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Zach Werenski played 77 regular season games last year, along with 6 games in the playoffs. Of those games, he only played 12 fully healthy - he was injured just before Halloween in a matchup with the Boston Bruins and played the majority of the season with a torn labrum.
He still managed to play the majority of the season’s games, all on the first pairing, while increasing his minutes played per night and setting a franchise record for goals scored in a season by a defenseman. And he did it all before he turned 21 years old.
Werenski obviously played through discomfort last season, yet he still managed to put up excellent numbers. He increased his goals scored number, his CF%, and his average time on ice, all while wearing a harness for much of the season. Werenski played well in spite of his injury, which bodes well for next season when he returns to the lineup fully healthy. To do what he did, at his age and with his injury, is commendable. The kid is a monster.
Games played: 77
Time on ice: 22:35
Penalty Minutes: 16
Corsi For (even strength): 54.4%
2018-19 Season Forecast
Werenski enters the final season of his entry-level contract as the clear second-best defenseman on the roster, arguably ahead of where his partner Seth Jones was at his age. After having surgery on his torn labrum in May, Werenski is aiming to be ready to play by Game 1.
Werenski, fresh off of a summer in which he turned 21 years old, has resumed working out on the ice and has begun skating as well as practicing slap shots, an area he was unable to utilize last season due to his injury. As he enters the season healthy and fully able to utilize his skill set, the sky is the limit for the young blue liner.