Defenseman Zach Werenski, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ first pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, has signed an American Hockey League amateur tryout contract with Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.
“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 Kekalainen.
Werenski, 18, registered 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points with 20 penalty minutes and a +5 plus/minus rating in 36 games at the University of Michigan this season. The sophomore led all Big Ten and was second nationally in scoring by a defenseman, was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-Big Ten selection and led the Wolverines to the Big Ten tournament title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. He also served as captain of bronze medal-winning Team USA at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships, tallying 2-7-9 in seven games and earning the Directorate Award as the tournament’s top defenseman.
In two seasons as a Wolverine, Werenski collected 20-41-61, 28 penalty minutes and was +14 in 71 games. As a freshman, he posted 9-16-25, eight penalty minutes and was +9 in 35 games. The youngest player in the NCAA in 2014-15, he led all Michigan defensemen and finished second among freshman NCAA Division I blueliners in scoring. He was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman and All-Big Ten Hockey First Teams.
The 6-2, 218-pound native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan registered 7-20-27 with 42 penalty minutes in 47 games for the United States National Development Program in 2013-14. He also collected 1-1-2 in five games while representing Team USA at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships and captured gold at the 2014 World U17 Hockey Challenge.