Yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe worked player by player through the Hurricanes’ forward ranks identifying strengths, weaknesses and skill sets relative to building lines for the 2019-20 season. If you missed that prelude, you can find that article HERE.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a next step toward building lines but categorizing players into different skill sets and types.
Categories of players
Centers — Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Lucas Wallmark
In reality, I think all four of the Hurricanes center slots are as close to set in stone as can be for this time including the other center Erik Haula. But if things do not click lineup-wise, Haula is slightly more likely to be moved to wing to try someone else in the middle of a third line aimed scoring.
The other three are anchored at the center slot. Without the addition of a higher-end playmaking type center, Aho is the only real option to center a true top scoring line. And considering how quickly he adapted this role last season any ‘shaking things up’ would involve moving the wings around him. Jordan Staal is just phenomenal at what he does in the middle of the ice as an elite match up center. And Lucas Wallmark’s skill set is really only suited for this role. He does not have the wheels to play wing in Brind’Amour’s system, and even if he did giving up his greatest strength as a heady read/react center behind the play to instead put him a role where he would be sub-par just makes no sense.
Where they fit: I think having this group pretty fixed including roles and pecking order even decreases somewhat the number of things Brind’Amour must try in camp knowing at least how the lineup looks down the middle.
Finishing wings — Andrei Svechnikov, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel, Teuvo Teravainen
I view this group as the set of players as the set of wings currently on the roster who could push to 30 goals or more in the right situation if things clicked. Because of the youth of the roster, there is always a chance that one of the other young players suddenly takes a leap up, but as foreseeable projections go, I think 25 goals would be a push for any of the other wings. Martin Necas is the exception but because of his inexperience at least to start the season, I am not putting him in this group. As such, I think this is the group that needs to do the heavy lifting in terms of scoring and being the key players in building one if not two solid scoring lines.
Where they fit: Because I think you want to maximize Aho’s playmaking, I think this group is the set of players who make sense on Aho’s line. I guess one could try one of the forecheckers to bring a different element, but my thinking is that you give up too much in finishing to do so.
Fierce forecheckers on the left side — Brock McGinn, Warren Foegele, Jordan Martinook, Saku Maenalanen, Ryan Dzingel, Clark Bishop
The defining characteristic of Brind’Amour’s system and style of play was a fierce forechecking system that leaned left. With Micheal Ferland also in two last season, the team had a somewhat interchangeable set of left wings that all did the same thing. The result was that when in doubt and without a better option, the team knew it could throw the puck to the far wall on the left side, and everyone knew what to do from there. With the exception of Dzingel and Necas, this group is maybe a little light on raw finishing ability, but again these lunchpailers are the ignition switch for what Brind’Amour wants to do.
Where they fit: No doubt Brind’Amour’s puck pressuring system will again feature a left-leaning forecheck with some combination of this group filling the same role as last year. Worth noting is that though I do think Staal’s match up line could feature one or two players from this group, that role does need at least one other player who is a heady read/react type. Two ‘pin your ears back and charge’ types will too often leave Staal in difficult defending transition in the middle of the rink by himself.
Heady two-way wings — Teuvo Teravainen, Saku Maenalanen, Janne Kuokkanen
Including only two players in this group is not to say that the other Canes wings are not capable defensively. Rather, I think most of the rest of the group lean slightly if not more to just playing with an F1, fly at the puck, mentality as a habit. This is a positive and fits well in Brind’Amour’s system, but I think for Staal’s role, his line needs at least one other player who leans toward sorting things out somewhat like a center behind the play. Janne Kuokkanen lost mind share being injured during all of the excitement during the second half of the year in both Raleigh and Charlotte, but he is another Finnish wing who generally rates well for being sound defensively which could work on Staal’s line if he rebounds and plays his way back up into the NHL mix.
Where they fit: Ideally, I think Staal’s line could use a player like this with a more aggressive forechecker on the other side.
Unbridled offense — Andrei Svechnikov, Ryan Dzingel, Martin Necas
For different reasons, all three of these players lean offense such that it could make sense to shelter one or more of them, and I am not sure they make sense on Staal’s line. Svechnikov made some progress late in the season at least with reducing his stick infractions, but he enters the 2019-20 season still very much a work in progress defensively. Ryan Dzingel comes with a reputation for leaning offense over defense. And Martin Necas like Svechnikov has natural ability offensively but a ways to go defensively.
Where they fit: As much as anything, I think these players fit best away from Staal. I suppose Brind’Amour could disagree if he goes for balance and offsets, but I really think the Hurricanes forward personnel fits better with purpose-built lines. If my reasoning wins out, I think Brind’Amour could use two of these players around Haula on an opportunistic scoring line that can be steered away from dangerous match ups.
Dark horses for scoring upside — Julien Gauthier, Morgan Geekie
With the departure of Justin Williams, the Hurricanes are basically plus two and minus two in terms of scoring forwards losing Williams and Ferland and adding Haula and Dzingel. As such, the door could be cracked open ever so slightly if one of the AHL scoring wings dials it up in preseason.
Where they fit: Odds are that both of these players are destined for the AHL, but a quick two goals in a preseason game would garner attention especially if Necas does not wow and an injury opens up another forward slot.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think of my categories for players?
2) Who has a different category or two for grouping players and understanding how they can best be utilized?