Zach Werenski Signs With Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed 2015 1st round draft pick (8th overall) Zach Weresnki to an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) to play the rest of the season with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL, the team announced Tuesday.

“Zach Werenski is a tremendous young man and a very talented player who is going to be an important part of our organization for many years and we’re excited about his taking this first step in his professional career,” said General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen in the announcement.

By signing an ATO, Werenski leaves the University of Michigan officially. While the team hasn’t announced an entry-level deal, the two parties are reportedly working on that deal. Announcing the ATO now allows Werenski to get some games and practices in now, while they work out the fine print on his entry-level deal. Later Tuesday afternoon the Blue Jackets announced that they have signed Werenski to a three-year, entry-level contract that will begin in the 2016-17 season.

By taking an ATO and not playing any NHL games this season, he’ll remain protected for the potential 2018 expansion draft, according to the proposed expansion draft rules. The details on that are still hazy, but it helps the Blue Jackets to not take any risks with one of their top prospects.

In his sophomore season with Michigan, the 18-year-old defender put up 11 goals and 36 points in 36 games. He was a key part of a dynamic team that many thought would do some damage in the NCAA tournament. They were eliminated over the weekend by the University of North Dakota.

Werenski was also the captain of Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championship, where he excelled. He was a First-Team All-Star in the tournament and named the tournament’s Best Defenseman.