Captain of Team USA at the 2016 Word Junior Championship, 2015 1st round draft pick Zach Werenski is considering leaving the University of Michigan to go pro, according to a report in the Columbus Post-Dispatch.
The report says that Werenski isn’t happy playing at the school and that there are “loud whispers” that he’s considering making a move to join the NHL. He’s eligible to play in the AHL this season, but may get a taste of NHL action if he goes pro. There’s a sense, according to the report, that there could be space for him on the NHL roster, should he make that decision. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has also praised Werenski’s game recently.
It’d be a big blow for the University of Michigan, where he’s scored four goals and 12 points in 15 games. The sophomore defender is a blooming talent, as he’s showing at the World Juniors, where he’s been putting up points and logging some serious minutes for the U.S. team.
It could be a win for the Blue Jackets who have been rumored all season to be looking for some help on the back end. Recent reports from both Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and the Post-Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline indicate that the team isn’t close to finding a dancing partner and that’s not surprising. The team is in dire straits and this early in the season other GMs would be looking to fleece them, particularly since Columbus isn’t likely to be looking for a rental, but a longer term solution.
Either way it may already be a lost season for Columbus, who continue to fall further from the playoff picture. They are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, 12 points removed from a playoff spot with a 3-6-1 record over their last 10 games.
Multiple sources, including ESPN’s Craig Custance, say that it is presumed that Werenski will stay in school and not turn pro.
Checked multiple sources close to Zach Werenski and everyone says he's staying in school. That would be my bet.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) January 8, 2016
In an interview with the Detroit News, Werenski says he’s happy at college and has no intention of turning pro.
Dustin Nelson is the News Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s a contributor to Hockey Prospectus, Hockey Wilderness, and writes a column for Rotowire. He’s also written for Gone Puck Wild, Wild Xtra, InDigest, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Tiny Mix Tapes, Prefix Magazine & other publications. Have a tip? Email him at dlukenelson[at]gmail[dot]com.