It’s clear that the Carolina Hurricanes are lacking a top-six forward on the left side and it's one of their few weaknesses that still remains. For the playoffs, however, between Ryan Dzingel, Warren Foegele and Nino Niederreiter, one of Carolina’s forwards needs to step up to play in a top-six role.
Foegele took huge steps in his game to become a solid top-nine forward this season. However, hoping for top-six production from him isn’t realistic, at least at this point in his career.
Dzingel, on the other hand, is inconsistent and that probably isn’t going to change. He’d be a solid fit on the third line but again, that’s probably the ideal spot for Foegele as well, so between them, Carolina has two players who’d fit best on the third line but neither can effectively play in the top-six.
In a poll I did in May, I asked which of the three forwards most fans thought would be playing in the top-six next season. The majority voted for Niederreiter, followed by Foegele, then Dzingel. Translating this to the playoffs, my hope is for Niederreiter to find his game once again and play a large role for the Hurricanes in the playoffs. Again, he’s best suited on the third line (seeing a pattern here?), but Carolina really doesn’t have any better options. It’s a bit concerning that last season, he had 30 points in 36 regular season games upon joining the Hurricanes, then scored just four points in 15 playoff games though. That said, he’s still probably Carolina's best bet to work out in the top-six.
We saw what Niederreiter is able to do with the Hurricanes last year, now it’s a matter of seeing that at a key time, even after his fairly disappointing season. Regardless, one of Carolina’s middle-six forwards needs to step up for the playoffs.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Do you think Nino Niederreiter could be effective if playing in the top-six for the playoffs?