The list of NHL rookies this season is an impressive one.
You’ve got Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine and Jimmy Vesey and William Nylander and Mitch Marner — all showing their potential to be star forwards in the very near future, if they’re not already on the verge of such status already.
He may not yet be attracting the same large-scale attention. But Blue Jackets freshman defenseman Zach Werenski has put together a very nice start to his NHL career, with 11 points in 11 games for Columbus, which is on a five-game point streak.
Werenski sits only four points back of Laine the scoring machine for the rookie lead in that category.
Selected eighth overall in the 2015 draft, Werenski is off to a productive start — with five power play points, as well — while playing a very difficult position just months after his 19th birthday.
Head coach John Tortorella doesn’t seem apprehensive about the use of his rookie blue liner, either, playing Werenski on average 21:41 per game. Only Jack Johnson and Seth Jones have averaged more ice time so far for the Blue Jackets.
Werenski also scored the overtime winner against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
It’s hardly a surprise the way Matthews and Laine, selected No. 1 and 2 overall in June’s draft, have started their careers. They have each provided spectacular moments, too.
After two years at the University of Michigan, Werenski turned pro earlier this year and finished off the 2015-16 season with the Lake Erie Monsters in the AHL.
His ability to step into that lineup right away and contribute, particularly in the playoffs, certainly grabbed the attention of former Monsters coach Jared Bednar and the entire Blue Jackets organization.
His performance in the Calder Cup playoffs seemed to strongly indicate that he was NHL ready.
“The way he came into Cleveland last year, it was like, ‘Whoa,’ and then he has picked up where he left off,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told USA Today. “We had high expectations for him coming into the season.”
Safe to say Werenski is so far living up to, or perhaps even exceeding, those expectations.
The Blue Jackets, with a record of 6-3-2, are in Boston to face the Bruins tonight.