If you just woke up in a cold sweat, that's okay. The defence has been some kind of awful over the past few seasons. This year, things look to be different. If I didn't know any better, I'd say there are actual NHL players shaping up to be on this year's blue line, and there appears to be more than three or four of them should one of them (inevitably) go down with an injury.
Two prospective players in the fold are Oscar Klefbom and Anton Belov. What can we expect from both Klefbom and Belov in 2013-14?
SCHULTZ THE YOUNGER
Let's use Justin Schultz as a comparable.
Schultz had nice boxcars for a rookie (8-19-27), was in the middle of the pack in Corsi (on the 29th place team in shots allowed) and was middle of the pack in QualComp. There's some concern he might have been more than somewhat fatigued by the end of the season (he admitted he was "pretty tired" back in August, playing in a total of 90 games when combining time with the World Juniors, AHL and NHL). Schultz was on-ice for a big chunk of ice time, and didn't get eaten alive against his opponents. There's lots to like about Justin Schultz.
Oscar Klefbom saw his first action in nearly a year at the YoungStars tournament. Klefbom was teamed up with 2013 first round pick Darnell Nurse on Thursday versus Calgary and (predictably) he looked like a player...who hadn't played a game in nearly a year. Klefbom appeared with Martin Marincin versus the Jets, and looked a bit better.
Anton Belov's role might be an even bigger question mark. At the end of May, MacTavish was quoted as saying he "expects him (Belov) to make the team", which is a pretty strong endorsement. Things have changed a bit since then (the acquisitions of guys like Phillip Larsen and Denis Grebeshkov, for instance), but when the GM suggests you're a strong candidate to make the team, it's worth taking note.
Are either Klefbom or Belov as good as Schultz? Will one (or both) appear on the opening day roster? Where will both players spend their majority of the 2013-14 seasons?