Carolina Hurricanes: Martin Necas’ Growth and a Case for Playing Center

Carolina Hurricanes forward, Martin Necas, is growing by the game. When could we see the team transition him to his natural Center position, and what would be the benefits?

The Carolina Hurricanes knew they had something special when they took Martin Necas 12th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Czech-born center was highly skilled, possessed great hands, and elite vision and skating. The only knock on him was his size at the time of his selection.

Since draft day, the Carolina Hurricanes have been patient with his development. Like many young, undersized centers coming out of the draft, Necas has started his career on the right wing where he’s had time to adjust to NHL pace and add some muscle, while not being too heavily burdened defensively.

I realize that I am in all likelihood early with this idea, but it’s surely on management’s radar. Necas moving to center won’t happen this season, and it might not even happen next season.

But, the potential that comes with his shift to center is too exciting to not ponder. That, and his development parallels another certain Finnish superstar and I’ve already kicked around ten different line ideas. So, let me have this.

Through 55 games, Necas has 32 points (15 g 17 a). That puts him on pace for about 47 points (22 g 25 a) for a full season. That projection is interesting because it is intriguingly similar to Sebastian Aho’s rookie stat line from when he started on the left wing (24 g 25 a).

Aho would go on to spend a second season on the left wing with sparse opportunities to transition to center. He didn’t become a full-time center until his third season. This matters because if Necas continues to follow in Aho’s development footsteps, he’s going to be in great shape.

Take a look at Necas’ rate metrics, too. He’s averaging 2.5 points (1.2 g 1.3 a) per 60 minutes TOI. Considering he’s only averaging 14:07 TOI on the season, that’s impressive. Necas is just scratching the surface of his capabilities.

This isn’t to say that I expect Necas to be Aho and put up 80-plus every season. Realistically, I can see Necas being a consistent 60-point guy, especially when he eventually takes on the whole-ice responsibilities of a second line center.

That’s the real selling point for this idea. Up until last night against Nashville, the Carolina Hurricanes weren’t getting much beyond their top line. Necas has that type of swagger that can command a top-6 scoring line if it’s built around him correctly.

Full disclosure; those aforementioned mock lines with Necas at center all have one key flaw. I thought I had one in Necas, Ryan Dzingel, and Julien Gauthier. In theory, it was beautiful. Dzingel’s speed and goal-line vision, Gauthier’s net drive, and Necas’ creativity. Well… you know how yesterday went. Back to square one I guess.

At this point, I truly believe that Necas could play center from a natural skill standpoint, but i’m also on board with the long-game that upper management has implemented with their future stars.

Statistically, Necas has only taken 40 face-offs this season and won only 25% of them. There’s definite room for improvement there. Also, legend has it that in Brind’Amour’s eyes you’re not a center in his system until you’ve won 20,000 face-offs in practice.

He’s also currently listed at 6′ 2″ and 179 pounds on his Hockey-Reference page above. He has added about one inch and 11 pounds since being drafted. If he could even add another six pounds, imagine what that’d do for his strength on the puck.

Will we see Necas transition to center next season? Maybe, but probably not unless there’s a sudden philosophical change at the top of the organization. When Necas is finally at a place where he can transition to center, the better off the team will be. Two scoring lines. One centered by a right-shot to diversify the Carolina Hurricanes’ lineup. That’s music to my ears.

Question for CC Readers: What do you think of Necas’ progression and when should he be tested at his natural center position?

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