The Columbus Blue Jackets announced Monday that their star rookie defenseman, Zach Werenski, would miss the rest of the season. He suffered a facial fracture after being hit with a puck shot by Phil Kessel. The impact required stitches and caused Werenski’s eye to swell up. Like, really swell up.
Playoff hockey… pic.twitter.com/4GNoLYVECu
That didn’t stop the 19-year old Werenski though. The puck hit him with 6:45 left in the second period, and he fell to the ice immediately. After laying there for five seconds, he got up holding his face and skated quickly to the bench. In the midst of all of this, the Penguins were still playing the puck. They managed two more shots before Bryan Rust scored his second goal of the night. The goal was quite controversial, as the official rule is that the play should be blown dead for an injured player when the injured player’s team regains possession of the puck, unless the injury is serious. The Blue Jackets never did, and Werenski did skate off to the bench albeit bleeding, so the referees made a judgment call.
Werenski returned in the third period wearing a full face mask. His eye slowly swelled up more and more, and he was eventually taken out again because he could no longer see out of it according to head coach John Tortorella.
Zach Werenski Injury Forces Him to Miss the Remainder of the Postseason
Before he left the game, Werenski buried his first career playoff goal. The goal came on the power play earlier in the second. It was a nice cap to what’s been an exciting rookie season for Werenski. He was drafted in 2015, eighth overall, by Columbus. He spent the following season playing his sophomore year with the University of Michigan; then signed with the Jackets and finished off his year in the AHL.
Werenski only had one point in seven AHL games, but impressed the organization enough over the summer. He started this season in the NHL, and played a total of 78 games throughout it. In those games he totaled an impressive 47 points. This placed him sixth on the team in points, but first out of any of the defensemen, including Seth Jones who had 42 points. He also had the most points out of any rookie defensemen, and placed seventh in points out of all rookies.
Werenski proved his ability this season. In his rookie season he averaged just over 20 minutes of ice time and usually played on one of the top two lines. He was a key part of the team, even though he was one of the youngest players in the league. That’s a common theme for Werenski though, as he was also a key part of Michigan’s team during his two seasons there. This was the first season of a hopefully many more. With his talent, Werenski will definitely be someone to keep an eye on as he becomes the centerpiece of the Blue Jackets.