Yesterday I reported on my group of forwards and how they are playing in the NHL to give the fans an idea of how that group will look next season. Today I'm going to do the same thing except my focus will now be turned to my defensemen and goaltenders. Like the forwards I will analyze line per line. 

First pairing 

Erik Johnson   35 GP   10G   10A       Kevin Shattenkirk   37 GP    5G  24A 

We feel like we'll have one of the top pairing d-men in the NEFHL next year. Johnson should be 80+ OV with the high SC and ST and all around good ratings he's on pace to possess. Shattenkirk will compliment him well with what should be one of the highest PA ratings for a d-man and great skating and defensive ratings! 

Second pairing

Hampus Lindholm   37 GP   4G    11A         Andy Greene   38 GP  0G   9A 

The offensive numbers aren't nearly as good as the top pair but I like the youth and veteran combination here. They are both playing over 22 minutes a game in the NHL and should both have very good all around ratings. 

Third pairing 

Ben Lovejoy      17 GP    0G      5A            Bryan Allen    11GP     0G     2A 

These are a couple of defensive d-men that aren't there to put up big offensive numbers but to stop other teams from putting the puck in our net. We have tons of offense coming from our first pair and our forwards that we just count on good defensive minutes from these guys and good penalty killing! 

These 6 guys will likely be our top 6 d-men next season but we do have a few guys playing in the NHL right now that if they finish their season strong could challenge Allen for that number 6 spot. Here are those guys: 

Grant Clitsome: 24 GP  0G   4A    Grant had off season back surgery and had trouble getting back in the swing of things at the start of the year and wasn't getting the minutes either. Fortunately for him, the Jets top 4 D is injured right now and Grant has played on average over 20 minutes a game in the last 6 while putting up 3 assists in that time. If he keeps it up, there will be a spot with him in Tampa next year

Jordie Benn: 30 GP   0G   7A  Jordie is playing just under 20 minutes a game but has been a healthy scratch a couple times this year. If he could reach 4 or 5 goals and 20 assists somehow he will be in the lightning top 6 next season. 

Victor Bartley: 10 GP   0G   5A  Bartley is having trouble cracking the lineup in nashville but when he is out there he has produced despite only 14 minutes a game. If he can find a way in the lineup he's a very valuable number 6 d-man as he's quite reliable defensively

Now we move on to goaltending. Jonathan Quick is viewed in the NHL by most as a top 5 goaltender in the league. Unfortunately his regular season save percentages don't usually back that up. His level of play always rises in big games and in the playoffs and thats where he's earned his elite status. With that being said, he does have a .920 save percentage in 31 GP this season which should get him around an 83 OV if he could maintain that percentage the rest of the year. 

Backing up Quick will be Eddie Lack again next season. Unfortunately for Lack, the canucks brought in Ryan MIller who took over the starting job from Lack. Miller tends to play a lot of games which, barring any injuries to Miller, will make it impossible for Lack to maintain is 1B goaltender rating that he has this season no matter how high his save % is. He does have a .916 save % in 11 games played so he should still be around a 73 OV which is reasonable. 

Well there you have it, we are just under half way through the season but if the players can keep up their paces the lightning should be contending in the playoffs and be as dangerous as ever!

Happy new year everyone!!!