The following piece was written for the Lake Erie (Cleveland) Monsters website on March 29, 2016 and can be found HERE.
It has been a whirlwind week for Zach Werenski, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (8th overall). Two days after his season at the University of Michigan came to an end in the NCAA Tournament, he signed an American Hockey League Amateur Tryout contract with Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters and reported to OBM Arena in Strongsville for his first professional practice.
Werenski finished a 36 game sophomore campaign at Michigan with 11 goals and 36 points, along with 20 penalty minutes and a +5 rating, but Werenski says, he knows there will be an adjustment period in his transition from college hockey to the American Hockey League.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” said Werenski following his first practice with the Monsters. “There’s going to definitely be things I’ve got to adjust to…I’m just going to work as hard as I can and hopefully I can help this team win.”
Werenski was welcomed to Cleveland by some familiar faces, including Monsters left wing Sonny Milano who he played with on the United States World Junior team earlier in the year.
After an eventful day that included Werenski’s inking of a three-year entry level contract with the Monsters’ NHL affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 18-year old blue-liner is expected to make his pro hockey debut on Friday when the Monsters travel to Chicago.
“As the week goes on and I get to my first game, I think that’ll be kind of when it finally starts to settle in.”