Looking to make the leap: Zach Werenski


This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

All of a sudden the Columbus Blue Jackets have the makings of an outstanding blue line.

Zach Werenski, the eighth overall draft pick in 2015, is expected to be a big part of it, along with last season’s major trade acquisition, Seth Jones. Beyond those two are Ryan Murray, David Savard, and Jack Johnson, though the latter only has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, so there may not be room to keep him long term.

If Johnson, 29, ends up elsewhere, the top four of the future could be Werenski, Jones, Murray and Savard. The oldest of those four is Savard, who’s still only 25. Jones is just 21, Murray 22.

Werenski, 19, only turned pro late last season, leaving the University of Michigan to do so. He joined AHL Lake Erie and helped them win a Calder Cup, piling up 14 points (5G, 9A) in 17 playoff games.

“The skill set he has,” said Monsters coach Jared Bednar, “his size, strength and poise with the puck, he’s a complete player. To be able to step into our lineup in intense games and get the job done, it’s impressive especially for his age and that’s why everyone’s so excited about him.”

Werenski was also named the top defenseman at the 2016 World Juniors, joining a list that includes the likes of Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said there’s “a very good chance” that Werenski is in the NHL next season. Considering the Jackets only have six defensemen signed to one-way deals, Kekalainen may actually be counting on it.