Martin Necas is headed to another World Junior Championship to compete for his native Czech Republic.
The Carolina Hurricanes said Wednesday that Necas, the Canes’ first-round draft pick in 2017, would be allowed to leave the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League for the 2019 tournament in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. The forward will join the Czech national team Thursday.
Necas, 19, began the season with the Canes but was assigned to the Checkers after seven games. Being shifted from center to wing, the forward has seven goals and 15 assists in 26 AHL games and recently was named the AHL player of the week.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour, asked Wednesday how much the World Juniors experience can help a player, said, “I’m not sure. I think from his standpoint he started getting going (in Charlotte) and I think they just want to keep the confidence rolling. You’d love to see him dominate as he did last year. He was a dominant player.
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“It’s a confidence thing. We know his ability is there and I think he’s starting to show it at the minor-league level. We just want to keep that rolling.”
A year ago, Necas had a tournament-best 11 points in the World Juniors at Buffalo, N.Y., leading all skaters with eight assists. The Czechs were beaten by Canada in the semifinals, then by Team USA in the bronze-medal game. Necas also represented the Czech Republic in the 2017 World Juniors in Montreal and Toronto, losing to Canada in the quarterfinals.
Several of the Canes players have competed in the World Juniors through the years, notably Sebastian Aho with Finland in 2016. Centering a powerhouse line with Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, Aho and the Finns streaked to a gold medal when the tournament was played in Helsinki, Finland.
“It was unbelievable, something special,” Aho said Wednesday. “Just awesome.”
And his line? Laine has quickly become one of the NHL’s top snipers and scorers for the Winnipeg Jets and Puljujarvi was another NHL first-round pick, taken by the Edmonton Oilers in 2016.
“I think we had a bad first period in the first game of the tournament,” Aho said. “After that we took off.”
The Finns were treated like teen rock stars during and after the World Juniors. Aho said four or five other teammates have played in the NHL, including Kaspari Kapanen of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Finland beat Canada, Sweden and then Russia in the elimination rounds, topping the Russians 4-3 in overtime for the gold medal -- Aho and Laine scoring in regulation, Kapanen getting the overtime winner. Puljujarvi was named MVP after being the leading scorer in the tournament.
“It’s a big tournament and great experience to play in front of big crowds, handle all the media, all those things,” Aho said. “It helps getting in the NHL. To me, playing for Finland was a great honor and a great experience.”
This year’s tournament begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5, 2019. Necas, the Checkers’ third-leading scorer, could miss seven or eight games with Charlotte.