With each passing day, Martin Necas is getting closer and closer to making the Carolina Hurricanes roster.
He’s not there yet. The Czech forward, the Canes’ first-round draft pick this year, had a temporary locker stall in a hallway outside the team’s main locker room on Friday morning at PNC Arena, befitting the youngest player in training camp.
Drafted as a center, Necas, 18, was moved to right wing in the Canes’ final two preseason games, playing on Derek Ryan’s line opposite left wing Jeff Skinner.
“You can just see that raw talent when he’s on the ice,” Ryan said. “He’s got the skill, he’s got the speed.”
And the Canes have a decision to be made. With veteran forward Lee Stempniak sidelined with what Canes coach Bill Peters refers to as a somewhat baffling injury, Necas might be needed when the season begins Oct. 7 against Minnesota and could be on the opening-night roster.
“I hope so,” Necas said Friday. “We will see. We will see if in the first game I am on the roster. Everybody here wants to make the roster, make the team.”
After a training camp cutdown Thursday, there were 27 players remaining on the roster, including 17 forwards. The Canes are allowed to have a maximum of 23 players on the roster for the regular season and will submit their roster to the NHL on Tuesday.
Necas can play nine regular-season games with the Canes without triggering the first year of his entry-level contract – albeit in what could be an important stretch of the season for the Canes. Another option would be Necas playing the nine NHL games, then returning to the Czech league for another year of pro hockey in his home country.
The Canes also could keep Necas but assign him to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, letting him play a lot of minutes with the option of a recall to the big team when needed.
Asked Friday if he would agree to go to Charlotte, Necas, “I’d probably still prefer the Czech league. I like to play against men and in Czech it was good (competition). It would be good. Of course, my goal is to make this team.”
Necas, given the chance to play in six of the Canes’ seven preseason games, said he has played some wing as a junior and then with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga, the country’s top professional league.
“In the NHL it’s a little bit easier than playing center, because the center has to play more defense, skate everywhere and (take) every faceoff,” he said Friday. “So I think for young players it’s a little easier to start and play the wing.”
Necas is listed at 6-1 and 167 pounds but said he’s closer to 180 after summer conditioning. Canes coach Bill Peters said he looks even bigger on the ice, although one concern would be if he could withstand the physical wear and tear of an NHL season.
Necas was slammed into the boards in the Wednesday game against the Edmonton Oilers and said he first thought he had lost both front teeth.
“But they were OK, I still have them,” he said Friday, showing the evidence.
And he’s still with the Hurricanes.