The first prospect we’ll look at is 17-year old Zach Werenski, freshman defenseman for the University of Michigan. The 6’ 2” 208 pound defenseman is projected to be a second pairing NHL defenseman, but may join the University of Michigan. In a recent interview, Werenski said, “I think it’s always good to have options. I’m comfortable at Michigan, like I said, but I’m open to reassessing [my options].
The London Knights, who have a proven development model that includes a schedule that mimics what Werenski would face in the NHL, own his major-junior rights. The franchise also convinced other college bound players to have a change of heart about developing in the juniors. The Knights have Matt Tkachuk, son of former pro Keith Tkachuk, and Werenski’s draft classmate Mitch Marner who are apparently “trying to persuade” Werenski that junior is the best place for his development.
Werenski does not project to arrive in the NHL sooner than 2017-18.
SCOUTING REPORT (via Elite Prospects)
“A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman 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.”
Werenski finished second among freshman defensemen and led all University of Michigan blueliners with 25 points (9-16—25) in 35 games. He was named to the All-Big Ten Hockey First Team and the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2014-15.
He became the youngest freshman to enroll at the University of Michigan in the Red Berenson era (since 1984-85), accelerating his course work in the summer prior to graduate from high school one year early.
In 2013-14, Werenski finished second among U.S. Under-17 Team defensemen in scoring with 27 points (7-20—27) in 47 games.
Internationally, Werenski won gold with the U.S. at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and represented his country at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
Models his style of play after University of Michigan alumni Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets.
DRAFT DAY DECISION
Would the Flyers take him at seven? The Flyers have gone on record as saying they will take the best player available, regardless of position. The team is in need of a scoring winger, but they have stressed best available over organizational needs.
Werenski may be a top 12 pick, but he’s not worth the investment – and won’t be much of a consideration for the Flyers – at the seven spot. However, the Flyers scouting staff interviewed him at the NHL combine, and he would be a potential pick if the Flyers decided to move back in the draft and accumulate additional draft picks.