By Miles McQuinn
While there was mass speculation that the Columbus Blue Jackets would make an attempt to try and move up to the third spot in the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla., the Arizona Coyotes ended up keeping their pick and proceeded to draft Erie Otters forward Dylan Strome.
When the Philadelphia Flyers selected Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ivan Provorov with the seventh pick, there was no question that the Blue Jackets would take Michigan's Zach Werenski at spot number eight.
Werenski, who isn't even 18 yet, is a tremendous two-way defenseman standing at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds.
The Grosse Pointe, Mich., native led all Wolverine blueliners in points and was second in Big Ten Conference play last season for defensemen, tallying seven goals and adding nine assists in 20 games.
He blocks shots, is a presence in the special teams department and his hockey I.Q. is solid as well, as there were few moments over the past season where he cost his team defensively.
His eight penalty minutes last year help reinforce that prior statement.
Getting to the heart as to why he's a great fit for Columbus, they need young, talented defenseman, period.
James Wisniewski was dealt to Anaheim at the NHL trade deadline in March and 2015 Big Ten Defenseman of the Year Mike Reilly, who was drafted by the Jackets, recently opted out of signing with them and is choosing to stay home in Minnesota with the Wild organization for the beginning of his professional career.
Columbus has rights to another Golden Gopher in 19-year-old Ryan Collins.
Looking at the rest of the Jackets roster defensively, 2012 second overall pick Ryan Murray's body has proven to be glass-like thus far.
The 21-year-old missed almost all of the 2014-15 campaign, scoring a goal and adding two assists in 12 games.
Fedor Tyutin is as solid as they come, David Savard is coming off of a remarkable year offensively, (former Michigan Wolverine) Jack Johnson has his ups and downs, Cody Goloubef didn't play much last year due to injury and the rest of the defense, Kevin Connauton, Justin Falk, and Dalton Prout, have their bright moments, but don't have the potential of Werenski.
But as with a lot of players in the league, Werenski still needs some development. He's not as dominant as a Noah Hanifin from Boston College right now, but will some day have a major impact in Columbus.
The question remains as to whether he will stay at Michigan for his sophomore year (which seems more likely at the moment) or take his talents to London and the Ontario Hockey League for a more “pro-like” schedule.
Werenski was taken in the second round (24th overall) by the Knights in the 2013 OHL draft.
Maturity won't be an issue here. If Werenski can accelerate himself through high school a year early and still dominate at the collegiate level, then it's scary to think of where he will be a few years down the road.
And much like Werenski, the Big Ten will continue to grow and develop to the point where hopefully a top ten draftee becomes the norm.
As far as Columbus is concerned, they are stacked with talent for years to come because of the draft.
Now they just need to worry about signing him...