In 2017, the Carolina Hurricanes used the 12th overall pick to draft a young Czech forward named Martin Necas. We all know how explosive Necas is with his skating and how he could dangle in a phone booth, but that’s always been as a winger. When he was drafted, the Nove Mesto na Morave native was drafted as a center iceman.
We’ve seen Necas play on the right-wing over the seasons he has been a full-time NHL player. He did play center during his first NHL game up in Edmonton and he did play center for the 7 games he came up in the year after, but he’s not moved over since he’s become a full-time NHL player. It’s got me wondering, will he ever move to the middle?
We saw this with Sebastian Aho. Aho started on the left wing. He moved into the middle during his 3rd year in the NHL and became one of the best centers in the National Hockey League. This is likely the exception and not the rule, seeing as most players that try to make the move to center struggle.
Necas is very similar to Aho in a lot of ways. Both are great with their skates, both are incredibly quick, great shots, good passers of the puck, both needed a season in Europe before they came across to play in the NHL. It’s worth noting that Necas is a right-handed forward as opposed to Aho being a lefty, but the similarities are there for all to see.
If we look at Carolina’s center core right now, we will see Sebastian Aho, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Vincent Trocheck, Jordan Staal, Steven Lorentz, Derek Stepan, Jordan Martinook and Martin Necas. All of these players are capable of playing center. Some are obviously better than others, but this is some strength in terms of center depth.
Stepan and Trocheck are free agents at the end of this season, so it is likely that we see one of them, if not both, depart the organization. Martinook is better as a winger, and Lorentz is probably best as the 4C. We know Aho will center the first line, which leaves Staal in the middle six with a hole for one of Kotkaniemi and Necas to fill next year.
Waddell has stated that they signed Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet with the idea of playing him on the wing in the 2021-22 season. Does this mean that the organization sees him as a winger long-term? That’s a different question, but this does mean that Kotkaniemi is another option to move to the middle if Necas stays on the wing.
Kotkaniemi has also played center in the NHL before for a prolonged period of time. Necas has played center for eight games. He’s had stints in the middle since, but Necas has mainly featured as a winger since he was moved over during the Charlotte Checkers Calder Cup Championship campaign in 2019.
The major question with Necas in the middle is how solid can Necas be in his own end? It’s going to be a different story to other centers because he’s not got the same size as someone like Jordan Staal or Vincent Trocheck. It’s a very different situation for Necas because he is a smaller man. It’s far more daunting, and it’s a difficult situation for him to move to the middle in.