Projecting the 2016-17 Leafs Lineup: Part 2 – Defense and Goaltending

Welcome back to my 2016-17 Leafs roster predictions. Last week, I went over my predictions for the Leafs' forwards for next season, so now we're going to take a look at my picks for the defensive core and the goaltending tandem. Without further ado, here are my picks for the d-core and goaltending.

1ST DEFENSIVE PAIRING

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

This pairing wasn't too hard to figure out. Morgan Rielly is the Leafs' best young defenseman and he put up 36 points last season despite playing on a team with an underwhelming offense and only spending half the season on the powerplay. He will play alongside of Zaitsev, who had a great season in the KHL last year putting up 26 points in 46 games. He's a great all around talent and has already impressed head coach Mike Babcock at the World Cup of Hockey, so it's definitely not a stretch to imagine these two playing together on the top pair.

2ND DEFENSIVE PAIRING

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Ask any analytics guru, they'll tell you that Gardiner is the Leafs' best defenseman. However, it's likely that Rielly will recieve the edge in icetime and play alongside of arguably one of the Leafs' best young defensemen in the system in Connor Carrick. Carrick played 16 games for the Leafs last year with four points in total. He plays with an edge for his size and also lit it up with the Marlies last year, putting up 18 points in 15 playoff games. Carrick is all but a lock to make the team full time next year.

3RD DEFENSIVE PAIRING

Martin Marincin - Matt Hunwick

Marincin became somewhat of a scapegoat for Leafs fans last year, but toward the end of the season he stepped it up. He's a very solid bottom pairing defenseman and can play a good defensive game. Hunwick, on the other hand, is a favourite of Mike Babcock due to his work ethic so he will very likely make the team as a veteran presence.

7TH DEFENSEMAN

Roman Polak

Polak was brought back on a one year deal, and he knows his role for this season. He will likely not recieve the playing time he did last season, but will still see some games. His role is to be a veteran presence and mentor the younger defensemen.

GOALTENDING

STARTING GOALTENDER

Frederik Andersen

The Leafs destroyed their former goaltending tandem of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, and it's completely revamped. The Leafs traded for Andersen, signed him to a five year contract, and told him he would be their starter. Not much else to say on the topic.

BACKUP GOALTENDER

Jhonas Enroth

Enroth was recently signed to a one year contract, and given they already told Andersen he would be their starter, it's not difficult to predict whether Enroth will start or back Freddie up. Enroth will be the backup, again not much else to say on the topic.

FINAL 2016-17 FULL LINEUP PREDICTION

James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Leo Komarov - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Josh Leivo - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Matt Martin - Brooks Laich - Milan Michalek

Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Martin Marincin - Matt Hunwick
Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen
Jhonas Enroth

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