Toronto Maple Leafs: 2017-18 Preview: Looking at the defence

TORONTO,ON - APRIL 23: Alex Ovechkin
TORONTO,ON - APRIL 23: Alex Ovechkin /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON – APRIL 17: Alex Ovechkin /

Second Pairing: Ron Hainsey – Morgan Rielly

There has been a heap of pressure on Rielly’s shoulders since he arrived in the NHL back in 2013. At only 23-years-old, he has played in the Leafs top four, and, in the case of the last two years, has matched up with some of the best competition in the league.

He spent time paired with every single defender on the Leafs last season but according to Dobber Hockey, Rielly spent 61 percent of his shifts last season with Zaitsev.

The pairing was mired in a slump which consisted of bad break after bad break. This could be chalked up to Zaitsev’s unfamiliarity with the league and getting to know a new partner, but in today’s NHL, results are everything. Rielly finished with a -20 on the year while Zaitsev was a -22.

Rielly’s production also took a slight dip. He only managed 27 points, nine less than 2015-16.

With the summer signing of Hainsey, the Leafs now have a stable presence to play alongside Rielly, who has shown off his raw ability to rush a puck and score singlehandedly.

Hainsey is coming off a 2017 where he won his first Stanley Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He finished with 17 points on the year and was a +17 between both the Pens and Hurricanes.