NHL's best players under age 25 for 2017: Zach Werenski arrives at No. 11 – SB Nation

Note: This is SB Nation NHL’s top 25 players under age 25 series! We’ll be covering each player from No. 25 to No. 1 over the next few weeks leading up to training camp time. See the complete list and information on how the rankings were compiled.

It’s hard to avoid the hype when you’re a 19-year-old NHL defenseman putting up nearly 50 points as a rookie, but Zach Werenski was playing under the shadow of Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine last season. In a lot of other years, he would’ve been a prime candidate to win the Calder Trophy.

Werenski’s debut performance with the Blue Jackets is a big part of why the team turned around from lottery team to one of the best in the Eastern Conference. Following a pair of very good years at the University of Michigan, he made a seamless transition to playing hockey at its highest level.

Over 78 games with the Blue Jackets, Werenski recorded an impressive 11 goals and 36 assists. He was 13th among NHL defensemen in points and tied for 11th in shots on goal. Those are usually positive signs for the future, and it’s clear Werenski’s will be bright in Columbus.

He’s already one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, and as he gets older, his all-around game should only get better. With Seth Jones to his right, the Blue Jackets should boast one of the best top defensive pairings of any team in the league for the next several years.

Nobody expected Werenski to be quite that good right out of the gate, but he’s already shown that he can be a star in the NHL. Don’t be surprised if he’s competing regularly for Norris Trophies in the near future.

Past accomplishments

The Blue Jackets selected

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