Part one of a look at the top two lines for Western Conferences teams.
This preview is obviously based on my own projections of who will be in the top six. Everyone has different opinions on who and where players will lineup. I have based my projections on several factors such as history (line combination frequencies), injuries (off-season surgeries), and my own intuition. In this preview I also include any OTHER players that I believe will have a legitimate shot in the top six. Keep in mind line combos are constantly changing in the NHL so to predict not only who will be in the top six but where they will lineup is a tall task. Nonetheless, if I happen to miss anything please feel free to post a comment. Lastly, keep in mind that usually slots five-six for a majority of NHL teams is like a revolving door…
This line has a ton of potential. All three players can snipe while playing a physical brand of hockey. Stewart has a major opportunity here to revitalize his once promising career. Something tells me things will click for Stewart on this line allowing him to maintain a top 6 spot. If Stewart manages to solidify his spot on this line, add him immediately as he could produce handsomely in rotisserie leagues.
Hagelin was acquired by the Ducks in hopes of finding a legitimate linemate for Getzlaf and Perry. I feel like Carl is too quick for the duo and he is a better fit on the second line. Kesler and Silfverberg both played solid down the stretch. Silfverberg tallied 41 points in his last 53 games and broke out in a big way during the post-season. Through all this both Silfverberg and Kesler play a sound defensive game which is invaluable. Lastly, Silfverberg will be entering his fourth year and with some added PP time he could breakout in a big way. Patrick Maroon is the only skater who I feel can challenge for a top-six spot as he has a history on the big line and has proven he can light the lamp.
Other potential top-six forwards: Patrick Maroon
Training Camp Update: Nothing much to note here other than Stewart has been taking a lot of reps with Getzlaf during training camp so he seems to have the inside track that top line.
Boedker is clearly the catalyst of this line as he has been one of the lone bright spots for the Yotes over the past few seasons. Both Vermette and Doan will do whatever they can do to provide space and time for the crafty winger. Doan certainly depends on Boedker as last season with him in the lineup he produced 25 points in 43 games and without just 11 points in 36. If Boedker can stay healthy this year than the Yotes will have a somewhat decent attack.
Max Domi – Martin Hanzal – A. Duclair
It will be very interesting to see who rounds off the top six for Arizona. Just as the Hurricanes and Leafs, the Coyotes are rebuilding and many new faces will be seen this season. Two of those fresh new faces are both Domi and Duclair who should bring excitement to all Yotes fans. This season I don't expect big numbers from either of these young bucks, however, there are definitely a few highlight reel goals in store.
Training Camp Update: Shane Doan has left training camp with a lower body injury. He is considered DTD.
This line was absolute DYNAMITE last season and if you owned any piece of this you were laughing to the bank. Nobody expected the type of numbers that this trio produced and for that reason many poolies won single handily because of this line. Not much to say here other than enjoy the season if you own a piece of this and the sky's the limit.
The Flames will be looking for some secondary scoring as it has become apparent that the top line has things under control. I'm not quite sold on the scoring depth of the Flames and I do think the entire team is due for a dip in production. That being said the top six does offer some potential and Frolik is one of those forwards with tons of it. With his new contract and an increased role, I think Frolik is bound to succeed and drive possession on a team that could use a boost in secondary scoring. Mikael Backlund has the tools to possibly play in the top 6 but the Flames may choose to keep him on the third line to play more of a defensive role.
Training Camp Update: The current trend of building lineups around twosomes has now reached the Flames. The incredible top line of Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler was broken up at Flames training camp. Gaudreau-Monahan have taken many reps with Micheal Ferland and Hudler has found chemistry with young Sam Bennett. Keep in mind training camp is the perfect time to experiment but nonetheless keep an eye on the Flames and their line combos going forward.
Drafted in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Teravainen may potentially have a huge first full season. Many analysts have projected Teuvo to lineup alongside Toews and Hossa which could prove to be a frightening line. There has been a lot of buzz regarding the young fin and rightfully so as he has showed flashes of brilliance throughout his young career. There could not be a better situation for Teravainen as he should receive more ice time now that Patrick Sharp has left the Windy City. I expect Teravainen to elevate his game and subsequently earn his spot on this top line. However, keep in mind that Marco Dano will be pushing him every step of the way as the young Austrian also eyes a spot with the big guns.
This line will obviously be quarterbacked by "Agent 88", also known as Patrick Kane. Both Dano and Anisimov should excel playing alongside the dazzling winger. A career year is definitely in the cards for Anisimov as 44 points in 2010-11 is peanuts when you lineup beside Patty Cakes. As for Dano, I haven't seen enough as he is yet to play a full season just as Teravainen. Something tells me Teravainen will win that battle which will leave Dano to play with Kane… poor guy eh? Andrew Shaw could potentially challenge for a spot in the top six but Teravainen and Dano will be given first dibs.
Other potential top-six forwards: Andrew Shaw
Training Camp Update: Marko Dano has looked great in training camp playing alongside Toews-Hossa as reported by beet writer for the Blackhawks Mark Lazerus. Early edge for Dano to win this lottery spot on the top line?
The top 6 for the Avalanche seems a little clearer than most of the other NHL teams. However, there should be a lot of line shuffling. This seems like a pretty solid first line. Soderberg should get first line duties after signing a long-term deal with the Avalanche. Tanguay at the age of 36 should still have some gas in the tank as he managed to drop 50 points last season. Lastly, Duchene should lead this top line as he'll be looking to rediscover his elite form from the 2013-14 season in which he put up a career high 70 points in 71 games. Duchene and Tanguay have played together quite a bit and this chemistry could help in the early goings with a new face in Soderberg on the line.
G. Landeskog – Nathan Mackinnon – Jarome Iginla
This line has immense potential to produce. Both Landeskog and Mackinnon have shown the fantasy hockey world what they are capable of doing. Last year was an obvious let down season for the Avalanche. The question is can the Avalanche return to their 2013-14 form? If they do, you could fully expect Mackinnon to lead the way. I see Nathan dropping 70 points this season but that would require him to stay healthy. If the PP gets going than WATCH OUT. The only person who could challenge for a top-six role is John Mitchell who is currently projected to play center on the third line by many analysts.
Other potential top-six forwards: John Mitchell
Training Camp Update: One interesting line combination to note is Tanguay-Grigorenko-MacKinnon. Denver Post hockey writer Mike Chambers reported on this line during training camp and the trio has apparently shown some great chemistry. Keep an eye on Mikhail Grigorenko during camp.
This has to be one of my favorite teams to watch besides the Pens. I have been a HUGE Benn supporter since he first entered the league in 2009-10. With the arrival of Seguin the Stars are officially a team to be reckoned in the West. Just as many teams, the Stars have had issues with finding a third piece to this devastating duo of Benn and Seguin. Eaves has played particularly well when given the opportunity to lineup with the tandem, however, injuries continue to be his main issue. Every time the line begins to pick up momentum… he goes down as he suffered both a concussion and ankle injury last season. Eaves finished the season with 11 points in 11 games and he could very well get the first shot at playing with the big guns.
Nichushkin has had some really bad luck in his young career. Many poolies pray that his most recent hip surgery will allow him to progress and play at the elite level that we all expect from him. It is quite possible that Nichushkin could end up on the top line if he is able to get his bearings straight. Sharp should fit in rather nicely here beside an underrated Jason Spezza who posted 62 points last season with mainly second line duties. Sharp's presence however will be most impactful on the PP. If the Stars can get the PP rolling… watch out. Many players can potentially get into the top 6 as injuries are clearly an issue for the Stars. That means that Antoine Roussel, Ales Hemsky and Cody Eakin can all see some top 6 time. Simply put, keep an eye on the injuries during the early going.
Training Camp Update: Mike Heika who covers the Dallas Stars reports that Benn-Seguin-Sharp have looked great during camp. This is great news for Sharp owners as his numbers and value should skyrocket if this sticks. Hemsky-Spezza-Nichushkin have also been used during camp as a second line.
McDavid should find himself on the top line playing between Hall and Yakupov. To be honest he will lineup wherever he pleases but this seems to be the best fit. If this line clicks it could be very bad news for the rest of the Western Conference. We all know what Hall can do… and obviously we know what McDavid brings to the table… so the real question mark is Yakupov. Entering his fourth year the timing can't get any better for Nail as he posted 20 points in his last 28 games. I believe he will pick up where he left off last season and breakout in a massive way this year.
This line finished the season off strong posting a staggering 42 points collectively in the remaining 15 games. So why change it? I don't see this line being altered and for that reason I mainly see McDavid lining up with the skaters mentioned above. I think Eberle will post career high numbers and the Oilers will finally turn a corner.
Other potential top-six forwards: Teddy Purcell
Training Camp Update: McLellan has made it clear that he likes working with pairs when building forward line combos. Therefore, based on camp thus far look for RNH-Eberle and McDavid-Hall to formulate the top two lines. Purcell should battle Yakupov for that final spot between McDavid and Hall.