The Carolina Hurricanes are many years removed from having a true top scoring line. Probably not coincidentally, the Carolina Hurricanes are also many years removed from making the NHL playoffs.
For most of the dry spell, Eric Staal centered a first line that simply did not have enough fire power around him. When that paired with a scoring decline for Eric Staal, the team had nothing close to first line scoring. With the elder Staal’s departure, Jordan Staal became the team’s top center. But as good as Jordan Staal is at what he does well, he just does not play at a high enough level offensively to center a true scoring line. Despite playing most of the 2017-18 season with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, Staal finished with a modest 46 points. By the end of the season, the team was tinkering with other possibilities around Aho and Teravainen with Aho at center a couple options tried for the third slot. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers both near-term and longer-term possibilities for building a legitimate first scoring line around Aho and Teravainen.
Both Aho and Teravainen posted impressive mid-60s point totals in 2017-18, but that still leaves them and the third line mate a bit short of the point per game pace that I consider to be a rough target for a true top scoring line. Further, I think how much higher they can go will be limited unless a capable third line mate is added.
I see a few possibilities both short-term and long-term:
Following a tremendous AHL season scoring-wise, Zykov received and performed well in a short nine-game audition at the end of the 2017-18 season. Zykov rates average-ish or possibly even a notch lower in terms of skating, but otherwise he brings a nice complementary skill set for a scoring line. He plays well without the puck which fits well with Aho and Teravainen who both lean ‘keep it’. In addition, Zykov brings a power forward/crease crashing element to a scoring line. Finally, he possesses enough skill and finishing ability to be a finisher on a scoring line. Zykov has played his way up to being considered for this role for 2018-19, but the question is whether he is truly capable of being a top line forward or if he is just a short-term solution.
Newcomer Micheal Ferland played much of the 2017-18 season in a role pretty similar to the slot next to Aho and Teravainen. He excelled for just over half of a season on a first scoring line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan before fading down the stretch. Like Zykov, Ferland brings a complementary power forward skill set to a scoring line. His physical presence on the forecheck and simple game going to the front of the net fit well on a scoring line, but as with Zykov, the question is whether he is legitimately a first line forward or if he is just a capable fill in the aims more for lineup balance than creating a true first scoring line.
Out of the players on the current roster, Andrei Svechnikov most projects to be a true first line forward. If the projections for him are on target, he is every bit the player that the Hurricanes want next to Aho and Teravainen. But the questions are twofold. First, what is the timeline for Svechnikov’s readiness for such a high-profile role. Second, would the team be better off filling this slot with another player hoping that Svechnikov can grow with Martin Necas to provide a second scoring line and the depth and balance that is common with winning teams.
Help from outside
With the aim of not rushing Svechnikov in his rookie season and also building for scoring depth, I continue to think that ideal short-term is to add one more proven scoring forward. Max Pacioretty is the biggest name allegedly on the trading block who would be a great fit, but there could be other players available. The potential to use Justin Faulk as a trade chip to obtain scoring help will continue to be in play.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you believe any other players on the current roster should be considered for the slot next to Aho and Teravainen?
2) Of the three players listed, who do you like best for the role?
3) Do you think Aho and Teravainen can produce more than the mid-60s points that they produced in 2017-18 without a higher-end forward added to their line? Or is finding a great third line mate required to push up to or near a point per game scoring pace?