A good hockey team has balance among four forward lines. A team that relies on one particular line will not find much success. Depth is one of the most important factors to a team’s forward core. Bottom-six forwards normally penalty kill, block shots, and get pucks deep. Depth players can also bring a more physical game to their opponents. Who are some of the best depth forwards around the NHL? Let’s take a look a the top five depth forwards to kick off the 2021 NHL season.
Best NHL Depth Forwards of the 2021 season
Warren Foegele: Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are out to a 12-6-1 start on the season. The Canes’ depth all around the lineup is a big part of their success. Warren Foegele is currently playing alongside Jordan Staal and Brock McGinn. The power forward has been a huge part of the Hurricanes third line. Foegele drafted 67th overall in the 2014 NHL draft, joined the Hurricanes during the 2017-18 season.
The Ontario native has a big frame and is a great skater. He has a long and powerful stride that makes him dangerous in puck battles. Foegele also has the ability to put the puck in the net. Foegele has a quick release with a good wrist shot. He’s a hard forechecker and plays a responsible 200-foot game. He always back-checks and blocks shots. He can put his body on the line and transition from defence to offence quickly.
Sam Gagner: Detroit Red Wings
While the Detroit Red Wings are still struggling in the standings, Sam Gagner has been a bright spot on the offence. He’s playing on Detroit’s fourth line with Valtteri Filppula and Mathias Brome. He recently recorded a hat-trick against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. Gagner is the only NHL player in the 21st century to record eight points in one game. The 31-year-old has bounced around teams over the past few seasons and is looking for a permanent depth role.
Another Ontario native, Gagner was selected 6th overall in 2007 by the Edmonton Oilers. Gagner is a skilled forward with the ability to make flashy plays. Gagner is a creative player with the puck while displaying an effective two-way game. He can be used in critical situations like the penalty kill and defensive zone face-offs. If he can maintain his play, Gagner could find himself on a contending team looking for a pick-up come playoff time.
Teddy Blueger: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins third line center has played a key role in their 10-7-1 start to the season. Teddy Blueger was selected 52nd overall in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Blueger is playing alongside Sam Lafferty and Brandon Tanev due to the injury of Jason Zucker. He’s had a strong start to the 2021 season recording 11 points in 18 games for Pittsburgh.
In just his third year with the team, Blueger has already solidified himself as a strong third-line center. Blueger, just like Gagner, can bring just about anything to a team. He is a penalty-killing specialist and can play against any team’s top line. Blueger also provides some decent play-making skills to his line. Blueger could potentially be utilized as a replacement in the top-six once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin retire.
Mason Appleton: Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are out to a good start, currently sitting third in the Scotia North division with a 12-6-1 record. Appleton was selected in the 6th round, 168th overall in a stacked 2015 entry draft. He is apart of a very successful Jets third line, complimenting alongside Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry. The entire Jets third line has an argument to be on this list.
Appleton displays excellent play-making abilities while being able to finish plays himself. He makes the linemates around him better. This is another reason why Copp and Lowry are having breakout seasons. Appleton can be used in clutch situations, as he plays a very responsible defensive game. He is a very reliable player, as he is a great role player to compliment the Jets star-studded top-six.
Mathieu Perreault: Winnipeg Jets
Perreault is a player overlooked by a strong Jets offence. Also, he is one of the best face-off guys around the league. Perreault plays an effective two-way game for the Jet’s bottom-six. Often, Perreault goes under the radar for his lucrative contract. This season, Perreault is playing on the Jets fourth line alongside veterans Trevor Lewis and Nate Thompson. He was originally a Washington Capitals draft pick in 2006.
Perreault is a workhorse with strong senses for the game. He displays crafty play-making abilities, being able to set up his linemates on any give occasion. Perreault can play center or the wing, making him a versatile player in the lineup. He is a very talented player that displays great skill. He has proven to play a great defensive game, being clutch in the face-off circle as well.
Why depth is important
Overall, a better hockey team consists of better forward depth, especially in the NHL. Having four lines that can score goals, lay hits, and shut down top lines is critical to any team. Take a look at Stanley Cup winners in the previous years. The Tampa Bay Lightning had four great lines that could do it all. They had two lines that could score, a line that was relentless on the forecheck, and a shutdown line. Players like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow are other examples of great depth pieces. To sum it up, to win hockey games, you need four full forward lines.
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