Earlier this month, I wrote a piece detailing my prediction for the Hurricanes’ top-six forwards after several offseason moves left the forward group with a much different look heading into the 2022-23 NHL season. Now, I’m going to take a look at their bottom-six forwards and explain how I would group them together if I had control of the lineup.
One luxury that the Hurricanes have that many teams throughout the NHL do not have is depth, which allows them to get creative with different lines and also flash some talent within the bottom-six group. The Hurricanes added to their depth on Aug. 23 with the signing of Paul Stastny. The veteran forward tallied 45 points in 71 games for the Winnipeg Jets in 2021-22 and brings plenty of experience to the forward group and should make an immediate impact offensively.
I fully expect head coach Rod Brind’Amour to use a variety of different line combinations on the third and fourth lines throughout this season, thanks to the depth at his disposal. Let’s take a look at my prediction for the Hurricanes’ bottom-six forwards when they take the ice on Oct. 12.
Hurricanes Third Line
Stastny – Staal – Fast
This line combination features three guys all over the age of 30 with tons of experience. Entering his 11th season in Carolina, Jordan Staal stays in his 3C spot and will have two veteran guys with solid finishing abilities on his wings. Signing Paul Stastny helps fill the void left by the departure of Nino Niederreiter. Getting a forward coming off a 20-plus goal season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract is a great deal for Carolina. They will be joined by 30-year-old Jesper Fast, who is coming off a 34-point season in 2021-22. Fast provides a veteran presence and stability at the right-wing position and was the only Hurricanes player to not miss a game last season.
I fully expect Stastny to provide an immediate impact in bottom-six and deliver another 20-goal season this year. With Max Pacioretty set to return later in the season, it’s likely that Martin Necas or another top-six forward will come down to the bottom-six. With the depth Carolina will showcase upon his return, you could argue they will have one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL.
Martinook – Drury – Kase
The Hurricanes’ fourth line should have a nice mix of veteran leadership and young talent when the season kicks off on Oct 12. Most expect Jack Drury to get the nod at 4C, as the 22-year-old shined during his short stint in the NHL last season, scoring two goals in two games played for Carolina. Drury played a big part in the Chicago Wolves’ run to the Calder Cup this past season.
The rookie will have plenty of experience on his wings with Ondrej Kase and Jordan Martinook at left wing and right wing, respectively; Carolina signed Kase earlier this offseason to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. While the 26-year-old forward hasn’t become the scoring threat some predicted he would, he brings a solid two-way game to Carolina along with a lot of skill. If Kase and Drury can build solid chemistry, they could create quite the scoring punch on the fourth line. Don’t be surprised if Drury’s Chicago Wolves teammate Stefan Noesen gets called up at some point this season and sees some ice time on the fourth line.
Depth is the Key
Regardless of the line combinations that Brind’Amour sends out there on the third and fourth lines, one thing is for certain: the Hurricanes have plenty of depth. The opening night lineup will be one of the best in the NHL, and that doesn’t include Pacioretty, who should return later this season after he recovers from his Achilles injury. I expect the depth and talent of the bottom-six to help lead this team to another successful regular season. However, this organization is no longer just looking for winning seasons. They are looking to contend for the Stanley Cup. Only time will tell if the offseason moves will make this team better than they were in 2021-22.