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NHL Draft Profile: Zach Werenski

Patrick Barron

The Player

Name: Zach Werenski

Position: Defenseman

2014-2015 team: University of Michigan(Big Ten)

2014-2015 stats: 35 games played, 9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points, +9, 80 shots on goal

Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 9th among North American skaters

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Werenski is a strong four-direction skater with exceptional lateral movement for his size. His footwork makes him dangerous in the offensive zone too. He is able to create shooting lanes for himself to utilize a heavy, accurate wrist shot. He's not creative, but a competent passer that moves the puck effectively and handles the puck above average skill.

The biggest question marks about Werenski this past year were on the defensive end of the ice. Even though he has always played up an age group, he developed the bad habit of being a bit too aggressive in his positioning in the neutral zone, and relying on his tremendous physical abilities to recover.

A more in-depth scouting report of Werenski from this past season is available here.

Is he trending up or down heading into the Draft?

Werenski accelerated through his final year of high school to play college hockey at the University of Michigan last season as a 17-year-old. One of the big questions heading into this past season with Werenski was if he could produce offense. He answered those questions with an impressive 25 points from the blue line in 35 games for the Wolverines. That offensive production solidified him as a prospect to go in the top 15 of the Draft.

Where is he projected to go in the Draft?

It would be shocking if Werenski was still available in the second half of the first round. As far as available defensemen in the Draft, Boston College's Noah Hanifin is pretty clearly above Werenski. Werenski and Ivan Provorov have battled back and forth throughout the year for the title of second-best defenseman available with Provorov seeming to pull ahead in the spring after Werenski's short NCAA season ended. That means Werenski will likely be the third defenseman off the board, with the possibility of him being the fourth D taken if a team reaches on a defenseman ranked later in the first round that they really like(similar to Pittsburgh picking Derrick Pouliot over Jacob Trouba in 2012). That scenario likely puts Werenski in a range anywhere from 8th overall to 15th overall on Friday night.

How does he project as a pro?

Werenski won't need to wait past 9pm on Friday night to hear his name called for a reason. He has all the tools to be a top pairing defenseman at the NHL level. If he can clean up his defensive game a bit--and there is at least some evidence to suggest that he will--he could be a complete package from the blue line, providing stellar defensive play while also being an offensive threat that could play on a power play.

Where will he go next?

Werenski seems intent on returning to Michigan for his sophomore season. That said, he has left open the possibility of playing in the Ontario Hockey League next year, where the London Knights retain his rights, if the NHL team that drafts him would prefer it. Michigan fans are wary of the Los Angeles Kings, who sit right where Werenski is projected to go at 13th, who have publicly blasted Michigan's handling of defenseman. The bigger concern may be Werenski being selected towards the higher end of his projection and the team that drafted him signing him to give him a taste of pro hockey early in the season then sending him to London for the rest of the season.

Regardless of where he is playing next season, Werenski has always been a player that pushed himself to play at the highest level possible, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he was competing for a full-time NHL roster spot by 2016-2017 or even by tail-end of next season.