By @MichaelCaples –
Zach Werenski said it was a moment he had dreamed about for a long time, but he still wasn’t sure how to describe how it felt when he pulled the Blue Jackets jersey over his head for the first time.
“It’s something you can’t really put into words,” Werenski said. “You watch it growing up; I’ve watched the draft the past three or four years and it’s something you dream about as a kid, and to put that sweater on for the first time is really special.”
The Grosse Pointe native was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft Friday night, as Columbus called his name with their first selection at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
“It was pretty exciting,” Werenski told MiHockey Saturday morning. “I guess I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen going into the night. When they went up there, I was hoping it would be Columbus, and fortunately it was. It was a pretty special moment.”
Werenski admitted that he isn’t too familiar with the Blue Jackets, other than the fact that Columbus is home to former Wolverines star Jack Johnson and fellow Grosse Pointe native Corey Tropp.
“I don’t really know too much,” Werenski said. “Big Jack Johnson fan, as most people know, so it’s kind cool to go to a team that he plays for. Corey Tropp’s from my hometown and I see him quite a bit, so I’ve been talking to him quite a bit about it and he’s got great things to say. Other than that though, I don’t know too much – I’m really excited to get down there and see what it’s all about.
“ I don’t really know [Johnson] too well, but I’ve met him once or twice at football games in Ann Arbor. Obviously he’s a great guy, a really nice guy and down to Earth, so, hopefully I get to know him better over the next couple of years.”
The NHL Draft is just the latest moment in a whirlwind year for the 17-year-old defenseman. It’s been less than a year since Werenski announced that he had graduated high school a year early to enroll at the University of Michigan and join the Wolverines hockey program. That meant leaving USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program a year earlier than expected, after Werenski had played for the NTDP U17 Team for the 2013-14 season.
“Yeah it’s kind of been up and down,” Werenski said. “There have been a lot of good things, some bad, but it was a really exciting year. I was happy with everything, very happy with the way things went at Michigan and how things went last night. Hopefully the next year works out just as good.”
Werenski’s first season in Ann Arbor came with an All Big Ten Team selection and 25 points in 35 games. He said that while he hasn’t discussed his future with the Blue Jackets yet, he is leaning towards returning to school next season.
“Yeah, I am,” Werenski said. “I am for sure. I think there are so many things that I can work on and things that they can teach me. I’m going to talk to them first before I make a 100-percent decision, but as of now, I plan on going back.”
— NHL Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) June 27, 2015
Werenski’s immediate attention is on prospects camp with Columbus, however, because that starts tomorrow morning. The standout defenseman said he’s not nervous about his first skate with the Jackets, however. “Not really – I think I’m more excited to fly down there and meet some other guys and their prospects and share the ice with them,” Werenski said. “It’s an exciting time, so just to go down there and get to Columbus is going to be very exciting.” For now, he’s just enjoying the moment – one that he was able to share with his loved ones. “I had a ton of family and friends here and to have their support and have everyone from down here be together, it was a really special moment for everyone involved,” Werenski said. “I think it was a good way to get everyone on both sides of the family back together and it was a really special night.” One of the people down there sharing in the moment was Dylan Larkin, Werenski’s roommate at Michigan and former Belle Tire teammate. Werenski said his friend – who was drafted by the Red Wings last year in the first round – had some advice for him before the big day. “Just enjoy it and take it all in. He said it comes and goes and that’s pretty much what it did, it just came and went. I kind of enjoyed it to the best of my ability and it was a fun time. I think Dylan really helped this year with the whole draft process in general.”