Winnipeg Jets 2011-12 Predictions: Defense
First Pairing: Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom
Out of the top three scorers on team, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom finished first and second last season.
Byfuglien led all defensemen with 20 goals and finished with 33 assists for 53 points in 81 games. Byfuglien's experience with being a contributing factor to the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup championship is a big boost for the Jets in both the experience and the versatility department, as Byfuglien can play both forward and defense. But don't expect the 2011 NHL All-Star to be jumping up to forward anytime soon.
Enstrom continues his strong play as a young player at 26. Entrom was to go to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game along with Byfuglien last season until an injury forced him to miss the game. His 51 points from the blueline can be promising, as the Jets have weapons from the back end to help with their forwards up front. His 41 assists were the best on the team last season.
Second Pairing: Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian
Ron Hainsey is a seasoned veteran at only 30 years of age. His plus-three rating on the team last year proves how much of a stalwart, stay at home defenseman he is. With only 19 points in all 82 games last year, Hainsey shows true grit and has a tendency to not get injured, as he has only missed nine games in his past five seasons with the Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets. He would be a great mentor for a young Zach Bogosian.
Bogosian, though unsigned, provides great upside at 21 years of age. With 17 points in 71 games last year, he goes into his fourth NHL season with a new city, new coach and a new start. Jets brass are hoping the former third-overall pick finally begins to show the potential that he was drafted for.
Third Pairing: Johnny Oduya, Mark Stuart
The third pairing includes two journeymen defensemen who are solid, both defensively and offensively. Johnny Oduya, 29, can provide a small bit of offensive output with 17 points in 82 games last season. The Swedish defenseman has 96 points in 382 career games.
Mark Stuart is a prototypical stay-at-home defenseman, having more blocked shots than attempted shots on goal. Stuart, 27, only has 41 points in 306 career games with the Boston Bruins and Thrashers, but did have a career year in 2008-09 scoring 17 points, including five goals with the Bruins. The former 21st overall pick in 2003 will be relied on to be a shutdown defenseman with his size at 6'2", 213 pounds.
Next In Line
Andrey Zubarev, 24, showed promise as a young defenseman when he played four games for the Thrashers late last season. He also collected 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 51 games with the AHL's Chicago Wolves last season after playing five seasons in the KHL.
Randy Jones, 30, has 326 games of NHL experience that could make him the seventh defenseman on the team. His training camp this September could tell the story of where he fits into the Jets' scheme.
Derek Meech, 27, is a native of Winnipeg and has 126 games of NHL experience over parts of four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Known for a great offensive upside in the AHL, Meech hopes to show that in his hometown. He also has a Stanley Cup championship to his credit.
Mark Flood, 26, was a Manitoba Moose last year and was one of the players the Jets brought over to add to their depth. Flood has only six games of NHL experience with the NY Islanders in 2008-09 but looks to be more than just a top AHL defenseman.
Paul Postma, 22, adds just another great young defenseman to the depth of the Jets defense. He played one game last season for the Thrashers and has collected 74 points (27 goals, 47 assists) in 132 games with the Chicago Wolves over the last two seasons. He may be able to crack the roster in the next two years.
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