With 5 Goals in 3 Games, Zach Werenski Has Entered the NHL's Race for the 2019-2020 Top Goal-Scoring Defenseman

By Max Steele on January 5, 2020 at 8:15 am
Dec 31, 2019; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) looks to pass against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
© Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, the Columbus Blue Jackets saw the end of 12-game point streak, losing to the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

However, not everything about the loss was negative for the team, as Zach Werenski, who has found another gear these past few games, continued a goal-scoring tear that is often unheard of for defensemen.  Werenski (still only 22 years old) has scored 5 goals in 3 games and has helped provide offense to a team deprived of forwards due to injury.  But the goal-scoring does not just have implications only for the team.

Werenski, with 13 goals on the 2019-2020 season, now sits tied for second in the league in goals scored for defensemen.  He's positioned in elite company in that place, tied with Dougie Hamilton and John Carlson and one point back of Roman Josi.  And while Werenski most likely won't keep up his current 3-game rate, some of Werenski's numbers suggest that he could contend for the defenseman goal title.

Werenski, of the top-5 defensemen in the goal-scoring race, has the fewest games played.  Having scored his goals in 35 games, Werenski has been firing at a higher clip than the other defensemen, averaging .37 goals per game, the next highest being Josi with .35.  If that trend continues, Werenski would end the season with 28 goals, which Josi is also on track to do.  Though scoring rates will undoubtedly not remain fixed, it suggests the goal-scoring lead will be a race to the finish.

Zach Werenski is also averaging less time on the ice than his high-scoring defensemen peers.  Should the Blue Jackets continue to push for a playoff spot, look for his ice-time to increase late in the season.  For the sake of the defensemen goal-scoring title, this increase could lead to more shots, more opportunities, and more goals.

Werenski is already poised to break the Columbus Blue Jackets record for goals scored in a season (16 set by him and Seth Jones in 2017-2018), but the young defenseman's sights should be set much higher than that.  If he continues to play at his high-scoring rate, he could challenge for and possibly win the defenseman goal-scoring race, bringing even more notoriety to the Columbus Blue Jacket club.