The biggest move made by the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason has been signing defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. However, there are still questions as to what Anaheim’s defense group could look like this season and this article will aim to give a breakdown of what pairings and goaltending situation the Ducks could start the year with.
Recently, I also wrote about what the team’s forward lineup could look like, which you can read here.
We can be pretty certain of Anaheim’s top-four, with the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk, who will likely play on the right side of the second pairing. Josh Manson will be the other defender on the right side and we’ll see Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler on the left side.
The bottom pairing, however, will be interesting and it could be a bit of a revolving door of defensemen. Kodie Curran, Christian Djoos, Brendan Guhle, Jacob Larsson and Josh Mahura will all be competing for spots and at least one, if not two of them, won’t even make Anaheim’s roster.
We know that Jacob Larsson will be on the Ducks roster, based on him being a regular this past season, along with his contract. While Djoos spent the majority of the year in the AHL, he has quite a bit of NHL experience and is also a strong candidate to grab hold of a role on the bottom pairing. Brendan Guhle split the year between the NHL and AHL but given that he’d have to go through waivers to be sent down, the Ducks probably want to avoid that if possible.
Kodie Curran and Josh Mahura are the only of the five ‘bubble’ defensemen who are exempt from waivers and as a result, they’d be the two most likely players to be sent down. Given that Mahura is still only 22 years old, on top of being waivers exempt, he’s pretty much a lock to start the year in the AHL. Whether Curran starts with the Ducks could be a matter of whether Anaheim structures their 23-man roster with 13 forwards and eight defensmen or 14 forwards and seven defensemen. If David Backes or another forward is sent down, Curran could make the roster.
In net, obviously John Gibson keeps his role as starter, but who takes the backup job will come down to whether or not Ryan Miller decides to return to the Ducks. If he decides to retire (or sign elsewhere, I suppose), Anaheim could look to acquire or sign a new backup, but I think the more likely option would be using Anthony Stolarz.
Stolarz is 26 years old and has played 26 career NHL games. He’s coming off a great year in the AHL, where he posted a .922 save percentage and considering he’s under contract for another year, why not give him a chance?
So here’s my projection of what the defense pairings and goaltending situation could look like:
Lindholm - Manson
Fowler - Shattenkirk
Larsson - Djoos
Spare(s): Guhle, Possibly Curran
AHL: Mahura, Possibly Curran
Anaheim has a ton of depth when it comes to left-handed defensemen and it’ll be interesting to see who’s able to earn ice time. Either way, I’d expect many defensemen to get a chance playing on the bottom pairing this year.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Which defenseman do you think is most likely to earn a full-time role in Anaheim's defense group next season?