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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Zachary Werenski

AJ Haefele Avatar
May 12, 2015


Get to Know Zachary Werenski

Date of Birth: 07/19/1997
Place of Birth: Grosse Pointe, MI, USA
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 214 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Defenseman
Team: University of Michigan (Big 10)

Zach Werenski is a name most draftniks have been familiar with for a while as the American defenseman’s time with the United States Development Program saw him blossom into a legitimate first round prospect. His time at the World Junior Championships on a pairing with Noah Hanifin, the consensus top defenseman available in this year’s NHL Draft, only served to cement himself as a candidate for the top 10.

Werenski spent this past season at Big 10 powerhouse University of Michigan and his 25 points in 35 games played only served to enhance his future as a power play quarterback in the eyes of scouts. The rest of his game showed him to be mature beyond his age and his all-around excellence became the hallmark of his play.

For an in-depth look on his freshman season, be sure to check out this look at him from February and the NHL even did a profile on him in April.


What Scouts See


A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that has a strong understanding of the game. Excels in key situations and is able to execute under pressure. Possesses good vision and awareness on the ice; uses his abilities to put offensive and defensive pressure on the opposition. All-in-all, a very strong all-around defenceman that consistently brings his game every night.

Draft Buzz Hockey.com:

As a defenseman whose biggest strength is having no apparent weakness, Zach Werenski has had a tough time standing out next to 2015’s best defenseman, and D partner, Noah Hanifin. What doesn’t go unnoticed is the stability Werenski has afforded Hanifin to gamble in transition, with hard to rattle defending confidence and patience with the puck.

Agile and swift, Werenski doesn’t have the same type of explosive wheels as Hanifin, but he does have an eye catching smoothness to his skating. With a relaxed handle on the puck, his passes are on point and usually best option decisions showing his above average hockey IQ.

Fast tracking to NCAA hockey as an underager, especially the illustrious Michigan program, is not easy to do. Doing so with ringing endorsement from Red Berenson RE Werenski’s maturity speaks volumes of his pro potential. As long as he adds a bit more dimension to his game offensively and physically, scouts will love his future as a no frills, top pairing, minute muncher.

What BSN Avalanche Sees

The one word that always comes to mind when watching Werenski play is “smooth”. His skating, passing, the way he transitions from offense to defense and vice-versa, the ease with which he shuts down an opponents rush up the ice, the calm he plays with in all situations. He’s never rushed, out of place, or uncomfortable. He plays at his own pace and lets the game come to him instead of forcing it. He’s a smart player whose safe game should translate very well to the increasingly risk-averse NHL. Very mature for his age.

For a player his size, Werenski lacks a consistent physical component to his game. He’s also best known for his offensive acumen and while his production is solid, he’s not likely to be a major point producer in the NHL. Werenski suffers from the same downside as every “jack of all trades” player does in that he’s good at everything but great at nothing. This also muddies his ceiling as a player because his room to grow might be limited already.


NHL Potential

Werenski’s ceiling is to become an all-situation defender that excels in a role allowing him to play 25 minutes a night against top competition. Should Werenski’s game not develop much more, he should still manage to carve out a lengthy NHL career on the 3rd pairing.

Expected Draft Position

Ranked as highly as 6th and as low as 11th, Werenski is a player that should go in the top 10. Specifically, Columbus presents the largest threat to the possibility of Werenski dropping to Colorado’s pick at 10th overall. Should Werenski go unselected beyond Colorado at 10, his fall will very unlikely last long. He’s about as safe as a prospect gets in this draft.

How Would Werenski Fit in the Avalanche Organization?

With the majority of the speculation surrounding the Avalanche and their pick centering on the selection of one of the many forwards that will be available, not a lot of conversation has dissected the possibility of Werenski to Colorado. Even with the presence of top defensive prospects in Chris Bigras, Mason Geertsen, Duncan Siemens, and Kyle Wood, Zach Werenski would become Colorado’s best prospect immediately upon being drafted.

It’s not hard to envision a future where Werenski plays Robin to Erik Johnson’s Batman. A team can never have too many good defensive prospects, especially with their notoriously high bust rate, and Werenski would likely see NHL team within 24 months of being drafted, providing a desperately needed jolt of stability to a perennially terrible blue line.

While certainly not a pick that would pay immediate dividends and doesn’t necessarily fill an organizational need, Werenski’s almost surefire guarantee to turn into a quality NHL player makes him a very safe choice for a franchise that simply cannot afford to miss with their draft picks.


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