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2022 Player Review: Zach Werenski had a career high in points, but it could have been better - and now it’s time to take the next step

Werenski shot a career-worst 5.1% this year despite offense being up around the league.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Minnesota Wild David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Werenski had a career high in points this year. I write that to say: I am one of his biggest fans, and he is my favorite Blue Jacket, and I had absolutely no idea. Werenski had 48 points, one more than his previous career high of 47 in his rookie season, but it felt like he had more to give. He played just 68 games due to injury, but average .691 points per game when healthy, a 57 point pace.

Werenski also shot a career-low 5.1%, an oddity in a year where offense was up across the league. To live up to his new contract, the Blue Jackets will not only need Werenski to be a #1 player in his defensive zone, but he will also need to take offensive steps forward and contribute on a level approaching what Roman Josi and Cale Makar do. Barring that, he needs to develop into a Charlie McAvoy type in his own zone. Werenski is talented, but now he has the expectations that a massive contract brings. Another season like the one he just had and that’s not good enough.

2022 Stats

Games Played: 68
Goals: 11
Assists: 37
Points: 48
Plus/Minus: -15
PIM: 22
5v5 CF%: 49.7%
5v5 FF%: 48.6%

Contract Status

Werenski, mercifully, is signed long term in Columbus. The extension that Zach Werenski signed last summer kicks in next year, the first year of a six year $57.5 million contract that carries an annual cap hit of $9.583 million per year.

Werenski, the current #1 defenseman on the roster, is signed through the 2027-28 season. He’s here for the long term, even through this partial rebuild. Did Columbus pay a premium to keep him? Perhaps. But for a franchise that has lost star after star, having Werenski locked down is a luxury.

High Point

Werenski had two game winning goals on the season, but he did have one late in regulation to beat the Detroit Red Wings, his childhood club, in November. Werenski lost his stick, grabbed a new one from the bench, and snapped home the game winner in the dying seconds of the third period.

Low Point

On January 24, Columbus got obliterated on home ice by the Calgary Flames 6-0. Werenski had his single worst plus/minus performance of the season, going -4. Werenski played 22 shifts for 19:45 and had just two shots on goal while posting a 41% Corsi.

Report Card

We’re grading by full letter grades, but I’m going to cheat and give Werenski a B-. He played okay, relative to the current contract. Did he have bad puck luck, were teams focusing on him on the blue line relative to the rest of the talent, or was it something else? Werenski had a better-than-50% Corsi at 5v5, but as mentioned above, the contract has raised expectations. Relative to those expectations, this was a disappointing season for Werenski. Actually, on reflection? I’m giving him a C. Average, but do better next year, man.

Poll

How would you grade Zach Werenski’s 2021-22 season?

  • 16%
    A
    (15 votes)
  • 60%
    B
    (54 votes)
  • 22%
    C
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now