Carolina Hurricanes open training camp — perhaps with a draft of a starting lineup

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Three days shy of four months since their 2022-23 season ended with an Eastern Conference finals sweep at the hands of the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes returned to the ice Thursday for training camp.

There are new faces — most notably free agent prizes Dmitry Orlov and Michael Bunting — but Carolina also was able to re-sign several of its own players and bring back most of a team that is considered one of the Stanley Cup favorites.

“I think this might be the least amount of changes we’ve had in all the years, but I like the guys we brought in,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said following skates by the two groups in camp.

Those two groups are split into what could best be described as the “NHL” group and the “Prospect/PTO” group. That doesn’t mean there isn’t time and opportunity for players in P/PTO to make a case for a roster spot — Pyotr Kochetkov, Vasily Ponomarev and Caleb Jones could all easily climb their way into the conversation over the next 20 days, and there are several established NHLers on PTOs that could push for a contract.

But Thursday was also the first look at what Brind’Amour and his staff think they have on their roster and how those pieces fit together. With the first group consisting of a framework of what the opening-night roster should look like on Oct. 11, players were broken up into lines and pairings that looked an awful lot like the first draft of a starting lineup.

Forwards

Left wing Center Right wing

Michael Bunting

Sebastian Aho

Seth Jarvis

Not many surprises here. Bunting, who scored 23 goals each of the last two seasons running shotgun to Auston Matthews in Toronto, finds himself alongside the Hurricanes’ best forward in Sebastian Aho.

It’s a small-ish trio — no one is over 6 feet or 200 pounds — but they make up for it in feistiness. Bunting’s ability to get under opponents’ skin is well-documented, and it’s an underappreciated aspect of Aho’s game as well.

Jarvis, from where I sit, is poised for a monster season, melding his offensive talent with his improved 200-foot game.

“He’s got some sneaky skill, and I don’t think gets appreciated enough for that,” Bunting said after practice.

Aho has been knocking on the door of a 40-goal season the past few years, and if Jarvis and Bunting can each score in the 20-to-25-goal range, Carolina should be happy with its top line.

“I think our line’s gonna do well together,” Bunting said. “It’s just gonna take a little bit to get to know one another, and we’re gonna roll from there.”

Left wing Center Right wing

Andrei Svechnikov

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Martin Necas

In the first month of last season, this line looked unstoppable. Martin Necas led the team in points in the nine games of October with 13, and Andrei Svechnikov scored eight goals — including three on the power play — to be amongst the league leaders.

For all of the line’s success, though, Jesperi Kotkaniemi managed just two assists. It took Kotkaniemi 11 games to get his first goal of the season and 10 more to get his fourth point and second goal. By that time, the line had been broken up despite dominant underlying numbers.

Kotkaniemi turned around his season, putting up 40 points in 62 games starting with that second goal on Nov. 25, showing he could produce at the 50-point pace expected of him when Carolina signed him to an eight-year, $38.56 million deal that started last year. It looks like Brind’Amour is prepared to give it another go, if…

That “if” is Svechnikov, who is coming off knee surgery and started camp in a yellow no-contact jersey. During Thursday’s end-of-practice skating test — a blue line to blue line back and forth that was timed by head strength and conditioning coach Bill Burniston — Svechinkov led his group on the first run-through and looked no worse for wear.

Just over six months after surgery, Svechnikov passes the eye test to be ready to go for the start of the season. Whether he is or not is still to be determined.

“When he feels 100 percent and (the training and medical staff) give him the green light, then he’ll be in the game,” Brind’Amour said. “But until then, it’s just a day at a time. He’s obviously already practicing, which is a great sign.”

Left wing Center Right wing

Jordan Martinook

Jordan Staal

Teuvo Teravainen

Brind’Amour threw a little bit of a curveball with this line. Jordan Staal centering Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast was a mainstay for the coach last season until the playoffs when he broke up the line to try to find something that worked minus Svechnikov.

Where Teuvo Teravainen was going to fit into this lineup was a big question mark entering camp, and he’s starting in Fast’s spot on the right.

Teravainen’s defensive play has long been underappreciated, so he should have no problem handling the toughest matchups. It will be interesting to see if his playmaking and sneaky good shot can add some offense to a line that dominated possession-wise but saw its three usual members total 40 goals in the regular season.

Left wing Center Right wing

Stefan Noesen

Jack Drury

Jesper Fast

Stefan Noesen said last season that playing on the top line with Aho perhaps didn’t fit his game as well as the other lines. I doubt he was advocating to be placed on the fourth line, but the dump-and-chase, grind-it-out style the Hurricanes love to play is loosened up a bit for Aho and the top line.

Noesen should get back to his bread and butter playing with Jack Drury and Jesper Fast. As constructed, all three players rely on their smarts and discipline to execute Carolina’s forechecking style as drawn up.

Of course, things could certainly change drastically with this trio. Ponomarev will push Drury to be the fourth-line center, and Brendan Lemieux will certainly be in the mix to give the Hurricanes a gritty edge when needed. And you know at some point Brind’Amour will reunite Fast with Staal and Martinook.

Defense

Left defense Right defense

Jaccob Slavin

Brent Burns

Brady Skeji

Brett Pesce

Dmitry Orlov

Tony DeAngelo

Jalen Chatfield

Dylan Coghlan

It seemed best to put the defense all together since the top four is intact from last season.

Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns remain as the top pairing, while pending UFAs Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce again serve as the shutdown pairing.

As things stand, Orlov is poised to be the first $7 million player to start with his new team on the third pairing. It’s an embarrassment of riches for Carolina, who would still entertain trading Pesce or Skjei if the right offer came along. Orlov starts camp alongside Tony DeAngelo, who won’t have the luxury of lining up alongside Slavin as he did in his first stint in Raleigh. Still, playing next to Orlov is quite the landing spot.

While Dylan Coghlan is the clear No. 8 among these players — and as mentioned above, Jones could push for that spot — Jalen Chatfield shouldn’t be ignored. The team loves the way his toolkit fits its system, and he could even wrestle ice time from DeAngelo. Chatfield’s ability to play on the left side as a righty means he’s also an ideal player to jump in if there’s an injury, regardless of who goes down.

Goaltenders

Goaltender

Frederik Andersen

Antti Raanta

Pyotr Kochetkov

To no one’s surprise, Frederik Andersen manned the starter’s crease opposite Antti Raanta on Day 1 of training camp. Pyotr Kochetkov, who is in the first year of a four-year, $8 million contract, skated with the second group but had a net to his own while prospects Yaniv Perets and Jakub Vondras split time in the other net.

There’s not much to report here. The two big things to watch in net during camp are:

  • Will Andersen and Raanta both start the season healthy?
  • If they do, will Carolina keep Kochetkov on the NHL roster and carry three goalies?

(Photo: Sam Navarro / USA Today)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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