Nation Network Prospect Profiles: #5 Zach Werenski

The common opinion goes that there are two tiers of defenders in the first two rounds. There is Noah Hanafin, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenski, and then there is the rest of the bunch.

Zach Werenski is a pretty special player. What he has done in the NCAA for his age is not only special, but essentially unprecedented.

This is why Werenski sits at number five for our Nation Network prospect rankings.

Bio:

  • Age: 17.20 years old at start of season. Born July 19, 1997.
  • Birthplace: Grosse Pointe, MI
  • Frame: 6’2, 207 lbs
  • Position: D
  • Draft Year Team: University of Michigan Wolverines (NCAA)
  • Accomplishments: U17 WHC Gold Medal 2013-2014, NCAA (B1G) First All-Star Team 2014-2015, NCAA (B1G) All-Rookie Team 2014-2015

Stats:

PCS% 2014 PCS Pts/82 2014 PCS% 2015 PCS Pts/82 2015
21.4 35.1 33.3 33.1
PCS Most NHL GP PCS Highest Pts/GP
James Patrick Reed Larson
Adrian Aucoin Duncan Keith
Reed Larson James Patrick
Note: Please read the Our Take section regarding PCS data for Werenski. Given Werenski’s age, there are simply no statistical comparables for how he’s produced in the NCAA. His 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons are both model-breaking in the sense that we can’t find players who have done what Werenski has before.

Scouts:

Draft rank:

NHL CSS ISS FutureConsiderations HockeyProspect Pronman McKeen’s McKenzie Button
9 (NA) 11 7 10 8 7 11 7

From Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects:

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.

From Craig Button, TSN:

Has ease to his game and is always under control but in command. Werenski is a fluid skater who beats pressure and can create space for himself offensively. He sees the play well and combined with very good passing skills, can create offence. I’ve always felt he deserved to be discussed in the same light as Hanifin.

Our Take:

We mentioned earlier that what Zachary Werenski has done is unprecedented. What we mean by that is PCS finds no statistical cohorts for Werenski. The numbers provided above are actually for what a player would pull up if they were a full year older than Werenski in both cases.

In other words, an 18-year-old who does what Werenski did at 17 will make the NHL 33 percent of the time and when they do will score on average 33 points a season. Werenski though is the only 17 year old to do what he has done.

Werenski comes from the University of Michigan, an interesting school for defensive development. A lot of NHL defensemen have come from that school, although many have claimed that Jack Johnson was also “ruined” by coach Red Berenson at U of M.

To give some perspective of how exceptional Werenski’s 25 points in 35 games is, the rising star Jacob Trouba scored 29 points in 37 games for the same team but as a full year older.

When it comes to the offensive side of the game, there is nothing but positives for Werenski.

Werenski can both pass and shoot the puck when moving from the defensive zone and always seems to have a knack at knowing which of these options is best. Even when under aggressive forechecking of NCAA players well older and experienced than Werenski, he seems to stay calm and make the best play out.

He is an excellent skater and his speed and acceleration may be underrated due to how often he has been able to avoid using his top gear due to smart plays and his high IQ.

The reviews on his defensive side of the game has been quite mixed, but he’s a 17-year-old top defender in a league where top defenders usually are 21-24. He has an NHL sized frame that won’t be pushed around and has room to grow in strength despite already being well over 200 lbs.

It is not outside the realm of possibility that Zachary Weresnki ends up the best defender in this year’s draft class. In fact, we think there is a pretty good chance that he will be.