The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is 29 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 8 today.
The Columbus Blue Jackets named Nick Foligno as their captain in recent weeks as they've been without a player with that designation for three season following the departure of Rick Nash in 2012. Yes, things look to be eventful this offseason for the Blue Jackets as Todd Richards, former Wild Head Coach, returned from a Bronze Medal run in the IIHF World Championships. Their 89 points in 2014-15 was good for fifth in the Metropolitan Division and on the outside of the playoffs.
In a season that had high hopes for the Jackets after making the playoffs the season before and giving the Penguins all they could have, they ended up with the eighth overall pick. And with that pick, they will select, from the Michigan Wolverines, Zachary Werenski.
Blue Jackets Prospect Pipeline
Former Minnesota Gopher Seth Ambroz has a solid NHL-type body and can play well in the tough areas. He will turn pro this year and if he makes the big club out of training camp, he could be a good player to have next to Ryan Johansen. They have little depth on the Right Wing position, but to reach for a Right Winger this early in the draft might not be the best move when you can find decent value later. The center depth looks promising for the Wild's expansion brethren as that position sports last year first round selection in Sonny Milano. Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano all look to be on track to have good careers as well.
The biggest news this early offseason was that Columbus's top defensive prospect, Mike Reilly, informed the organization that he will not sign with them. While it's tough to lose out on a sure fire, puck-moving defensman, they are in position to refill that hole with Werenski.
About Zachary Werenski
Why would a team from Ohio associate themselves with a player from Michigan?
Werenski, at the tender age of 17, was the youngest player in the NCAA this past season and youngest player to play for the Wolverines in Red Berenson's tenure. He led all Michigan defensemen with 25 points (9 G, 16 A) in 35 games in his freshman year. Standing at 6'1" 206 pounds, this youngster still has good size and is still growing. Ranked ninth for North American skaters by Central Scouting, the Grosse Point, Michigan native tries to model his game around players like Jack Johnson and has been compared to Phil Housley. He's won a Gold Medal in 2014 with the USA U-17 Hockey Challenge and played in the 2015 World Junior Championships.
What the Scouts say:
Strong puck handler and a resourceful, heads up puck mover. Eats up the ice with an effortless and powerful stride. Boasts clever one on one feints plus a natural ability to escape. Senses how to create time and space to feed the breakout with smart outlet plays. Fuels quick transitions when sticking to a simple play on attack.
Smart and reliable two-way defenseman...shows skill at both ends of the ice...is a good skater with a smooth stride and fluid movements...handles the puck well with decent hand-skill, good strength and some elusiveness with it as he moves through the neutral zone...makes a great first pass and outlet...has good poise and vision with the puck on his stick...has a decent wrist shot, which he'll take from the point...isn't overly physical on defense and he needs to play tougher and meaner than he does...has good reach and he uses his stick well to take away lanes and force players wide and off the puck...poised on defense and recovers well.
"An offensive-minded defender, he didn't look like the youngest player in NCAA hockey this season. Smart and skilled, he showed no panic in his game and has the potential to quarterback a team's top power play and excel in transition. He also earned a spot with the United States at the 2015 WJC and didn't look out of place."
How He'd Fit the Wild
The kid has size that Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo covet, but yet he plays in such a fashion with his puck moving ability that would fit right in with the way the Wild want to play. He has the ability to quarterback a power play and the Wild could use a true quarterback on the blue line. His defensive game is solid that you wouldn't have to worry about him in the defensive zone. If he fell to the Wild, this would be the prototypical defenseman they would select.