Since the start of training camp, the Carolina Hurricanes have practiced with consistent forward lines.
What does that mean?
Well, probably not a lot, especially if you ask head coach Rod Brind'Amour.
Lines (and defensive pairs, too) are fluid in the course of an entire season, and even more granularly, in the course of a period or game, as coaches make adjustments and search for any advantage or spark they can find.
But analyzing, dissecting and rearranging the forward lines remains a fun exercise, if not to simply stimulate discussion, much like what happens inside the coaches' office.
With that in mind, let's project some lines.
Andrei Svechnikov - Sebastian Aho - Teuvo Teravainen
This is the bread and butter. This is the line that's going to drive the Canes' offense. This is the line that, even if it's not together on Opening Night, Brind'Amour confidently knows he can turn to it if needed. It's a proven trio of elite offensive talent.
On the left side is Svechnikov, one of the league's budding young stars who is entering his third year. His sophomore campaign, even though it was cut short due to the pause, was one to remember. He improved in every statistical category from his rookie season with 24 goals, 37 assists and 61 points. And who can forget not only the first lacrosse-style goal in NHL history, but also the sequel?
Video: NYR@CAR, Gm2: Svechnikov makes history with hatty
In his first four seasons in the NHL, Aho has developed into one of the league's best centers (the 13th best, according to NHL Network). In 2019-20, he set a career high in goals with 38 and scored at nearly a point-per-game pace, leading the team with 66 points (38g, 28a) in 68 games. From Jan. 21 through Feb. 28, Aho recorded a career-long 14-game point streak that included 12 goals and nine assists. In the 2020 postseason, Aho again led the team in scoring with 12 points (3g, 9a) in eight games. He recorded at least a point in every game but one and in the sweep of New York in the Qualifiers, Aho tallied eight points (3g, 5a) in three multi-point games.
Video: CAR@NYR, Gm3: Aho forces turnover, scores superb goal
Aho has led the team in goals and points in consecutive season, and he's just the fourth player in team history (since relocation) to record consecutive 30-goal seasons. Even at just 23 years old, Aho is beginning to etch his name into the Canes' record books.
"He's one of the best players around," Brind'Amour said.
Teravainen is perhaps one of the league's most underrated players. He has elite playmaking skills - just look at the pass below - and an effective shot that he should probably show off more often. He's the perfect complement for Aho, as the two Finns recorded a point on the same goal 33 times in 2019-20. That's going to be an effective offensive duo no matter who is on the left wing.
Video: CAR@WPG: Aho knocks in Teravainen's perfect feed
Nino Niederreiter - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
This line will feature Trocheck in the middle with what could be a mixed cast of characters around him. Whatever it looks like, this trio is going to be critical to the Canes' secondary scoring; it's a given that the first line is going to produce, so how dangerous can this second line become?
With nine goals and six assists, Niederreiter was a point-per-game contributor in his first 15 games with the Canes in early 2019. In total, Niederreiter finished with 30 points (14g, 16a) in 36 games with Carolina following the trade, his offensive contributions undoubtedly helping fuel the Canes' surge up the standings in the latter half of the 2018-19 season. His production fell off in 2019-20, though, as he finished with 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games. Niederreiter, a 20-goal scorer in four of his previous five seasons prior, ideally plays a key role in the team's secondary scoring.
Trocheck has been on the Canes roster for nearly 11 months now, but he's only played in seven regular-season games and eight playoff games with his "new" team. Trocheck spent time digesting video and learning systems prior to the postseason, and in the offseason since returning from the Toronto bubble, he's put in off-ice work with the Canes' head strength and condition coach, Bill Burniston. Trocheck finished with career highs in goals (31), assists (44) and points (75) in 2017-18, and if he can rediscover that level, he's going to be a weapon down the middle.
Video: CAR@NYI: Trocheck cleans up rebound for OT winner
"I think Trocheck has looked good this year," Jake Gardiner said. "He looks fast and confident. I think he's going to have a big year for us."
Necas has dazzling speed and skill, and in front of him is the opportunity to take the next step in his development after a rookie season in which he scored 16 goals and totaled 36 points in 64 games. He followed that up with four points (1g, 3a) in eight games in the playoffs. In a full 82-game schedule, a 20-goal season wouldn't be out of the question; 13-15 would make for a solid sophomore season.
Video: ARI@CAR: Necas circles the wagons for backhanded goal
Warren Foegele - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
This line is a handful for the opposition. It's tough and frustrating to play against. They're going to get pucks deep and force the opposition to return and retrieve before hounding them with a dogged forecheck. And when the puck goes the other way, they'll backcheck with just as much vigor.
Foegele is coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him improve in every statistical category from his rookie year with 13 goals, 17 assists and 30 points in 68 games. He plays with energy, and an offensive skill touch allows him to contribute in all scenarios. He scored three shorthanded goals in 2019-20, one behind the league (and team) lead of Aho's four.
Staal's game isn't flashy or surprising. It's honest and sturdy. He'll win the faceoff. He'll hang onto the puck. He'll use his big frame to protect the puck, nudge an opposing player off it or gain positioning in front of the net. He's a bear and a handful for the opposition each and every shift.
Fast is the lone new name amongst the forward group. Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Fast is a perfect fit both on and off the ice for this team. He's a versatile, right-shot winger who can throw his body around and log quality shorthanded minutes. Fast plays, well, fast, hard minutes and is the embodiment of a team player.
Video: "Such a great group, everyone is so kind to me."
"We play similar styles," Jordan Martinook said. "He's one of those guys who goes out and works his tail off every shift. A guy like me respects that so much."
Ryan Dzingel - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
As a skill player who was signed as a free agent to provide a scoring punch, Dzingel is probably a little out of place here, but he has the talent to work his way up the lineup. He's coming off a disappointing 2019-20 season in which he scored just eight goals and totaled 29 points. Worth noting is his abnormally low shooting percentage of 8.2%; he's career shooting percentage is much closer to 15%, and seeing that number climb will also lead to an increase in goals. He'll also be featured on one of the team's power play units.
Video: WSH@CAR: Dzingel brings the Huricanes closer
Martinook has played both center and wing in his time with the Canes and will probably play a little of both this season, as well. He can be effective in either position, but he's admittedly more defensive-minded when he's in the middle.
"I feel like I'm comfortable at both. My mindset definitely changes a little bit. If I'm playing in the middle … I think a little more defensively," he said. "Playing center, you get to see more of the ice, get involved more and get more touches. That's something I'm excited about."
Brind'Amour knows what he's going to get out of McGinn, who can provide rugged even-strength minutes and be one of the team's most reliable penalty killers. He's got enough offensive touch to convert shorthanded opportunities, too; he scored two in 2019-20 and added another in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Video: CAR@BOS, Gm1: McGinn dekes, buries pretty SHG
In the mix: Morgan Geekie
Geekie burst onto the scene just before the pause with an eye-catching first two NHL games. Geekie's stat line from his debut: two goals, one assist, three points, plus-3, one hit, four blocked shots and a perfect 100% shooting percentage (two goals on two shots). Two nights later, in what ended up being the Canes' final game in the 2019-20 regular season, Geekie scored his third NHL goal on his third NHL shot. Though he's been utilized as an extra forward thus far in camp, he'll see time in the lineup this season.