Report: Columbus prospect Werenski unhappy at Michigan, contemplating going pro


Well, here’s an interesting one regarding Blue Jackets prospect and current World Juniors standout Zach Werenski, from the Columbus Dispatch:

There are loud whispers that Zach Werenski, the Michigan defenseman whom the Blue Jackets took with the No. 8 overall pick in the NHL draft last June, is unhappy in college and thinking of turning pro.

The Jackets have had major difficulties on the blue line this season, and some believe the sophomore could help immediately.

Taken eighth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Werenski’s stock couldn’t be higher. He’s currently tearing it up for Team USA at the Worlds — five points through the first five games — and has played very well for the Wolverines this season, emerging as the highest-scoring defenseman in the Big Ten.

The lure of turning pro isn’t anything new, either.

After drafting him, Columbus reportedly told Werenski they’d be willing to sign him to an entry-level deal immediately, and end his collegiate career.

“I was 50-50 for a while,” Werenski said in September, per the Dispatch. “It’s a great position to be in — signing with Columbus or going to the University of Michigan are great options — but it’s a really tough call.

“Some of the teams I met with at the combine … they made it really clear: If we draft you, you’re going to do what we tell you to do and play where we say you’re going to play. Columbus didn’t do that, and I really appreciate it.”

Werenski’s in his sophomore campaign at Michigan, but still only 18 years old (he finished high school in three years, and enrolled as a freshman earlier than most.)

Columbus’ blueline isn’t great, and there’s widespread belief Werenski could step in immediately and not just play, but help. But there has to be some trepidation — playing in the NHL at 18 is a tall order, especially on defense, and often comes with a steep learning curve.

The Blue Jackets can ill afford to damage Werenski’s progression, which is why throwing him onto a struggling team in a fairly dysfunctional environment — led by a notoriously hard-line coach in John Tortorella — is a risky move.

Of course, the risk could always pay off.