While the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to train ahead of the first puck drop of the 2021 regular season, so too are the other seven teams in their division.
As these teams prepare in training camps, forward lines are being mixed and matched to try and find the right chemistry among players.
Let’s take a look at what these forward lines are largely looking like with less than a week to go before the season begins.
#NHLBruins Group A lines:— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 6, 2021
Marchand – Bergeron – Studnicka
Bjork – Kuraly – Wagner
Frederic/Filipe – Lindholm – Senyshyn
Lauzon – McAvoy
Zboril – Miller
Ahcan – Kampfer
#NHLBruins Group B lines:— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 6, 2021
DeBrusk – Krejci – Kase
Ritchie – Coyle – Smith
Carey/Hughes – McKegg – Lantosi
Grzelcyk – Carlo
Vaakanainen – Wolff
Moore – Clifton
#NHLBruins lines without Pastrnak to open camp. pic.twitter.com/VerNnrNKjA— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) January 4, 2021
In Mike Darnay’s PensBurgh staff predictions piece from last week, I said, and still firmly believe now, that the Bruins are the best team in this division.
When David Pastrnak returns from injury, the Bruins’ top-six could arguably be called the best in the NHL.
Even without looking at DailyFaceoff’s metrics, that third line, too, could be the best in the league.
A Tuukka Rask — Jaroslav Halak tandem will be a formidable one, and the B’s defense may be called suspect, even more so now without Zdeno Chara, but the offense and goaltending will carry this team.
#Sabres lines:— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) January 6, 2021
Hall - Eichel - Olofsson
Skinner - Staal - Reinhart
Reider - Eakin - Okposo
Sheehan - Lazar - Thompson
Mittelstadt - Ruotsalainen - Asplund
Are the Buffalo Sabres one of the odd teams out when it comes to the four clubs that clinch playoff spots in this division? As of now it looks that way, but make no mistake, there is talent on this team.
A newly-signed Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel duo could do wonders on that top line. Jeff Skinner, while he did not repeat his 40-goal, 63-point season from 2018-19 to last year, is still a valuable top-six forward.
Rasmus Dahlin is just 20-years-old and will only get better.
The Sabres’ goaltending situation is a bit sketchy, which could be their ultimate downfall.
New York Rangers
It's scrimmage time. pic.twitter.com/qsYqqZWF6X— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 5, 2021
Lafrenière opens his first NHL training camp with Chytil and Gauthier.— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) January 4, 2021
Morgan Barron/Howden on 4th line RW.
Johnson - Bitetto
Milller - Smith
are 3A/3B D-pair. pic.twitter.com/UwAGBh8deJ
The rebuilding New York Rangers.
On paper, this team doesn't look too hot. But they have young, perhaps franchise-altering pieces in Kaapo Kakko and 2020 number one overall draft pick, Alexis Lafreniere.
Artemi Panarin will continue to flash his greatness under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
And let’s not forget everyone's favorite d-man, Jack Johnson.
Don’t fret, MSG faithful. In a few years’ time, they could return to Metropolitan Division prominence. Just not this year.
New York Islanders
#Isles Scrimmage— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 6, 2021
Blue: Gs - Sorokin, Schneider
D - Leddy, Mayfield, Aho, Wotherspoon, Hutton, Bolduc
Fs - Beauvillier, Nelson, Bailey, Bellows, Johnston, Martin, Komarov, Dal Colle
#Isles scrimmage— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 6, 2021
Gs - Varlamov, Skarek
D - Greene, Dobson, Pelech, Pulock, Wilde, Hickey
F - Greer, Koivula, Wahlstrom, Ladd, Cizikas, Clutterbuck, Lee, Pageau, Eberle
Projected Lineup Breakdown:— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) December 30, 2020
New York Islanders
[salary cap data via @PuckPedia] pic.twitter.com/hY62C1DwZs
You can never count out a Barry Trotz-coached team. But will Matthew Barzal show up or hold out for a new contract? The Islanders desperately need his talent.
Look at that projected fourth line, though. Holy moly. That fourth line carries a combined cap hit of $12.35 million.
The Islanders’ roster looks like a bunch of “meh” players, but somehow, they’ll find a way to finish with a playoff spot.
New Jersey Devils
Camp Game #2 lineups!— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) January 6, 2021
A couple of changes from the last game. pic.twitter.com/QNDI4zAPdJ
Projected Lineup Breakdown:— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) December 28, 2020
New Jersey Devils
[salary cap data via @PuckPedia] pic.twitter.com/JunDyLoTLx
The jury is still out on the likes of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. Based on that lineup, the Devils don’t look like serious threats to anyone in this division. They may steal a game here or there, but I’m not convinced this team is anything special.
Day 3, big club group:— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) January 6, 2021
Alain Vigneault said the lines and D-pairs will be different the next on-ice day of camp. He was trying to put some guys together that had history together, see if the chemistry was there.— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) January 6, 2021
Lines and pairings starting to take shape for the Flyers. Great to see Lindblom and Patrick back in there pic.twitter.com/0YIkIA3l0e— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) January 6, 2021
The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers will always, always give the Penguins their toughest fight. Nolan Patrick returning to the Flyers after dealing with a migraine disorder will certainly help them.
Do not ignore Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and the holder of the baton, Claude Giroux. Philly’s top-four are rather solid too.
Throw in the rising star of Carter Hart, and the Flyers look to be the real deal.
Some changes to the #Caps’ lines in the NHL group:— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 6, 2021
*Chara joins the NHL group
#ALLCAPS new lines and pairings in first practice under new head coach Peter Laviolette.— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) January 4, 2021
*Chara is not on the ice, so D-Pairs subject to change* pic.twitter.com/ENlLeXsa5V
Hoo, baby. Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary, and Carl Hagelin. (And Daniel Sprong is in the Capitals’ organization, too). It really is the Penguins 2.0.
But in addition to these former Penguins, the Caps went out and brought in Zdeno Chara and Henrik Lundqvist too?! Granted, Lundqvist will not be able to play this year due to a recently discovered heart condition, but it’s the sheer fact that Washington went out and spent left, right, and center to assemble the squad they did.
By bringing in these names, in addition to the regular stars on their roster, could the Capitals feel like they are in the same boat as the Penguins? Is their championship window closing? Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Bäckström are not getting any younger.
Throw in new head coach Peter Laviolette as well, and the Capitals will look very different in 2021.
That MassMutual Division will be a tough one, no doubt. But one thing is a constant among all these teams: they have talent that will guide their respective franchises. And we, the spectators, are the beneficiaries of what looks to be some fun, intense hockey.