Matt Duchene

Elite young defensemen adapting to NHL faster than ever

Zach Werenski and Ivan Provorov are the latest to put cracks in the time-tested theory that defensemen need a long time to develop.

The 19-year-old rookies quickly followed the lead of Seth Jones and 2015 Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad in adapting more quickly to the NHL than elite defensemen of previous generations. Werenski plays on the Columbus Blue Jackets' top pairing alongside Jones and Provorov is already a No. 1 defenseman after making the Philadelphia Flyers out of training camp.

"In that position of defense, it's the toughest to play and a lot is expected of them to step right into the top level of their game in their sport," Blue Jackets coach John...