While the following fact may be obvious to avid followers of the Columbus Blue Jackets, it seems to finally be a widely help opinion that Zach Werenski is an elite NHL defenseman. His defensive ability is undeniable, and his offensive production is becoming ever more apparent.
This is about as obvious a statement as you can make (especially if you regularly watch the Blue Jackets), but Werenski is establishing himself as an elite NHL defenseman. This season is cementing that statement, as his goals production is coming at a career-high pace. And regardless of who he's paired with, Werenski continues to produce: he's the first Blue Jackets defenseman in franchise history to score 20 goals in a season.
On top of scoring his 20th goal in Monday's thrilling comeback win over the Vancouver Canucks, Werenksi recorded another assist, putting his total to 20 as well. This puts him at 40 points in 60 games, good for 15th-most points by an NHL defenseman this season.
Werenski is just the second NHL defenseman in the past three years to reach 20 goals in a single season (TOR M. Rielly, 20 in 2018-19). He is five goals clear of the nearest blueliner on the goal scoring leader board and has 3-3-6 in his last eight games. #CBJ— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) March 2, 2020
Another point to put this "elite" nail in the coffin? Werenski is 18th in point production for a defenseman since his entrance into the league in 2016-17. In that span, he's scored the third-most goals with 58 and in terms of point totals, there are six players ahead of him on that list (with more games played).
Aside from his offensive output, Werenski's defensive ability speaks for itself and the analytics speak to strengthen this point. Werenski has driven play at a 52.5% shot share in his first four NHL seasons (which is strong), and the Jackets are rocking a shooting percentage of 11.6% with Werenski on the ice.
Werenski has played in the shadow of Seth Jones for the past few seasons, but Jones' unfortunate injury has helped to peel back the curtain on what in Columbus already know: Werenski is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and his strong play has helped the Blue Jackets stay alive in a tightly-contested Eastern Conference playoff race.
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