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The Daily Chum: Projecting how the 2016-17 San Jose Sharks defenders will line up

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2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Yesterday we looked at how I think/want the San Jose Sharks forwards to line up, so today we’ll be taking a look at the defensive corps. Don’t worry, I’m probably not going to do one of these on how the goalie tandem split should be handled.

Probably.

The biggest change to the defense this season will be the inclusion of David Schlemko. It seems the Sharks acquired a solid partner for Brenden Dillon, so that sets up a pretty good battle for the seventh defensive spot. Let’s get through the obvious stuff before we settle on that debate.

Top Pairing

Okay, so the top four is a bit of a no-brainer (good thing for me, amiright ha ha ha) but...we’re doing this anyway. Brent Burns got better as the season went along and I think Paul Martin deserves a lot of credit for that. Given the great results in the regular season, these guys will stick together next season.

Second Pairing

So ... this is the Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun pairing. Okay? Any questions? Okay I’m moving on because you probably skipped it anyway.

Third Pairing

So here’s where things get a little more interesting. Brenden Dillon and David Schlemko are penciled into the third pairing, but I’m sure the commentariat is less sold on Dillon being an automatic inclusion. In the spirit of healthy debate, let’s take a look at who else will compete for the sixth and seventh spots.

Everyone Else

Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller will be the biggest competitors for the sixth and seventh defensive spots. Mueller has long been the heir apparent for the next available defensive position, but floundering confidence and not-so-spectacular professional results (AHL or NHL) have raised doubts about his prospect status.

Those doubts were certainly not assuaged by DeMelo’s fine play in limited (and sheltered) minutes while filling in for injured Sharks defenders. While previous NHL (and AHL) play will certainly play a role in deciding who makes the final cut, my guess is how they play in training camp will be the ultimate decider.

My guess, barring any future moves of course, is that the Sharks send Mueller back to the AHL so he can starting minutes while DeMelo spends some time in the SAP Center press box. If Mueller has an incredible training camp then maybe this changes, but for now I think this is how the Sharks look on opening night:

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brenden Dillon - David Schlemko