Considering Zach Werenski played with an injured shoulder for almost the entire 2017-18 season, imagine how good he could be if he is at 100% for all of the upcoming campaign. That is the goal for the young Blue Jackets blue liner, who recently sat down with Columbus beat writer Brian Hedger. Werenski continues to recover from off-season surgery, but says that his goal is to “be there for Game 1”.
Werenski suffered the injury of note all the way back on October 30th, 2017. The sophomore defenseman nevertheless played in 77 games and recorded 37 points, even though he played with a brace for much of the year. Werenski then underwent corrective surgery in early May and had his left arm immobilized for much of the summer. However, the 2015 eighth overall pick is already ahead of schedule in his rehab and training. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared a recovery timeline back in June that assumed Werenski would miss most of training camp, but the young defender tells Hedger that he hopes to back toward the start of training camp. Werenski has already begun shooting drills and is essentially back to his regular off-season training minus taking any contact. While the offensive rearguard is obviously motivated to be ready for the season for his teammates, coaches, and fans, he also admits to Hedger that playing in the teams opener, a road game against the Detroit Red Wings in his home state of Michigan, is an added personal boost. “Suffer now, but I’m going to be able to play in my hometown in front of my family and friends ” has been Werenski’s mantra this summer and so far things seem to be going well.
Should Werenski suffer even a small setback that leaves him unable to start the season, the Blue Jackets are less equipped to deal with his absence than they would have been last year. With Jack Johnson, Ian Cole, and even others like Taylor Chorney now gone via free agency, Columbus is relatively thin on the blue line after their superstar young pairing of Werenski and Seth Jones. Ryan Murray or Markus Nutivaara would likely be the replacement on the top pair with Jones while the other skates with David Savard, leaving the Jackets with a bottom pair featuring two of Scott Harrington, Gabriel Carlsson, Dean Kukan or new addition Adam Clendening. Count the Blue Jackets as being right there with Werenski in hopes that he is able to go from day one.