On pace for 28 goals and 58 points, both of which would shatter franchise records for a defenseman, Zach Werenski is enjoying his best professional season as a Columbus Blue Jacket. His highlights over the last two weeks include being named the NHL’s third star of the week over the new year, scoring his first career hat trick (against former Blue Jacket Sergei Bobrovsky no less), and taking over the NHL’s lead in goals scored by a defenseman.
Yet, somehow, the Blue Jackets’ defenseman won’t be in St. Louis at the NHL All Star Game.
Yes, Seth Jones will be representing the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the perennial Norris Trophy contender deserves his nod for the third time in four seasons. In addition to the Blue Jackets already having a defenseman on the All Star game roster, the three on three format of the All Star Game inherently limits the number of players that can represent a team in the game. There are three other defensemen from the Metropolitan Division selected by the NHL to appear in the game: John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Dougie Hamilton (Carolina Hurricanes), and Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins).
No one could argue the merits of John Carlson or Dougie Hamilton being named to the All Star Game. Carlson leads all defensemen in the league in points this season, and his 54 are tenth overall among skaters. Carlson is nine points ahead of the second closest defenseman, and also leads all blue liners in assists with 41, ten ahead of the second closest defenseman. Dougie Hamilton of the Hurricanes is fourth in the league among defensemen in scoring and is second in goals scored. Kris Letang, the other selection, has the same point total as Werenski this season (28) but has not been asked to carry the same offensive load Werenski has. Werenski’s offensive game has picked up as injury concerns have dominated the roster of late.
Per the NHL, only three defensemen in the expansion era have three multigoal outings in a five-game span.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) January 8, 2020
--Hall of Famer Bobby Orr (1971).
--Hall of Famer Paul Coffey (3x in 1985-86 and 2x in 1984-85)
--Pretty likable guy Zach Werenski#CBJ
Werenski is not just an offensive magician, he has developed into a solid contributor on the defensive end of the ice. Despite just being in his fourth season, and playing most of one of those years with a shoulder injury requiring surgery, he has developed into a 200 foot player that can be relied on in any situation and against any competition. He has not yet entered his prime as a player, and yet is one of the best defensemen in the league.
Werenski does not have the name recognition, Norris Trophy finishes, or Stanley Cups of the other players selected. But, as he continues to enter the prime of his career (remember, he’s just 22), Werenski will grow on the national stage and represent the Jackets in All Star games to come. But he should be there this year, highlighting his accomplishments.