The season is quickly approaching and it’s time to get excited! The Carolina Hurricanes play their first regular season game in just under two weeks. The preseason roster will go through multiple cuts and changes to get to the opening night roster.
With off-season acquisitions and players gone to free agency, the roster will look much different than the final roster of last season. So, which forwards make it to opening night?
With how the last season finished up and the acquisitions that have been made, here are my predictions for the forward line combinations for next season:
Andrej Nestrasil - Jordan Staal - Joakim Nordstrom
Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Lee Stempniak
Sebastian Aho - Elias Lindholm - Teuvo Teravainen
Bryan Bickell - Jay McClement - Viktor Stalberg
Healthy Scratch: Phil Di Giuseppe
The Nesty-Jordy-Nordy line worked really well last season and there is no reason to think that they will be split up this season. Though they started slow, they were really gelling after the new year.
Their time together was cut short when Nestrasil suffered a fractured vertebra at the end of February. During training camp and preseason, the trio has pick up right where they left off leaving no reason to think they will be split up.
The next easiest line to guarantee is the fourth line of Bickell, McClement, and Stalberg. Bickell was acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes this summer from the Chicago Blackhawks. Though he has had a couple of rough seasons as of late, Bickell possesses good size and potential to be able to make an impact.
Stalberg was also signed to replace Riley Nash who departed in free agency. Stalberg played a similar role with the New York Rangers last season and will slot right in alongside Jay McClement to round out the bottom line.
The middle six is a little harder to predict due to how close the level of talent is. What we can go off of is how lines have been assembled in the past and how they’ve played in the preseason.
Skinner, Rask, and Stempniak could form the top scoring line of the team. Stempniak was signed to add scoring to the team, so it would make sense that he would slot in with the top two scorers from last season.
These three players combined for 68 goals last season and would be looking to contribute a majority of the offense for the 2016 - 2017 season.
The final line would be Aho, Lindholm, and Teravainen. Aho and Teravainen played together for Finland in the World Cup of Hockey. Having already spent some time together, they should make good linemates.
The acquisition of Teravainen and bringing in Aho will bring much needed scoring depth to the Canes who ranked in the bottom of the league in goals for last season. All three of these players were among TSN’s top 200 projected scorers next season.
This addition of scoring depth will pay dividends for the Canes next season. They will be able to cover up their possible weaknesses at the goalie position with more scoring.
Unfortunately this leaves Phil Di Giuseppe on the outside looking in. Di Giuseppe is a good player, but he doesn’t bring as much to the table for special teams as other players.
Special Teams Units
The Carolina Hurricanes have a great core for the penalty kill units. Jordan Staal and Jay McClement led the team last year with over 140 minutes each. Nordstom and Stalberg also spent significant time killing penalties at 117 and 93 minutes, respectively.
With Staal and Nordstrom playing on the same even strength line, they will likely play on the same PK line. McClement was the most effective penalty killer last season and will be a good fit with Stalberg.
Stalberg is solid defensively and is one of the fastest players on the team. His speed will allow him to catch the opposition off guard and create breakaways. He brings dynamic and exciting play to the penalty kill that the Canes need.
The power play units are a little more tricky but there are seven main players that will be seeing significant power play time: Staal, Lindholm, Stempniak, Aho, Teravainen, Skinner, and Rask.
The top line from Friday's game against the Lightning was Aho-Staal-Lindholm with Teravainen on the point. If this line stays together that would make the second power play unit Skinner-Rask-Stempniak, with two defensemen at the blueline.
Talent-Filled Roster will Lead to Success
The Canes were on the wrong end of 16 overtime games and missed the playoffs by only 10 points. The roster is, top to bottom, filled with more talent than last season. The improved forwards will lead to more scoring and an improved record in one goal games.
With three lines that have legitimate scoring ability, look for the Carolina Hurricanes to be on the right end of more close games this season. This improvement could very well power the Canes to their first playoff berth since 2009.
Let us know which of the forwards you think will make the roster, and what line combinations you are predicting!