The Hurricanes made their first big roster moves of the season Wednesday, part of which included sending rookie forward Martin Necas to Charlotte.
While the assignment of 2017’s 12th overall pick left some fans scratching their heads, the thought process is pretty straightforward – the kid needs to play.
“He wasn’t getting a lot of ice time up top so Carolina wants him to come down and get more ice time here,” said Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci. “Instead of five or six minutes he’ll play close to 18 or 20 minutes to get used to the North American game.”
Necas has appeared in all seven of the Canes’ games thus far this season, notching a goal and an assist along the way, but his usage has fluctuated. That can complicate things for a 19-year-old attempting to make the jump to the pro game.
“I can play more minutes and build more confidence here,” said Necas. “It’s kind of hard to sit on the bench and then go in for six minutes. You feel tired and kind of not in your skin. But we have five games in nine days here which is good for me.”
From a hockey perspective, the already rolling Checkers add a lethal scoring threat to their group of forwards while Necas gets to flex some of those attributes that made him a first-round pick.
“We’re going to use him a lot,” said Vellucci. “His skill is high, he’s got a lot of speed. We’re going to use that and his offensive ability to create more opportunities. We’ll put him on that line with [Andrew] Poturalski and [Janne] Kuokkanen. He’s had a lot of chemistry with Kuokks over the last couple years. We’ll see how that line does.”
“I knew most of the guys before I came here so that helps me,” said Necas. “I’m going to try to play my game and score some goals and help the team win.”
Sending a highly-touted prospect down early on in his career brings its own set of challenges on the mental side of the game, something that the coaching staff is cognizant of.
“You just tell him the truth, that’s all anybody every wants is the truth,” said Vellucci. “It’s the best move for him. We’ll go through every shift with him after games and make sure he knows all the good things he’s done and the things he can improve on and we’ll build from there.”
Moving to the AHL isn’t the walk in the park that some assume, especially for a teenager.
“This is a tough league here,” said Vellucci. “It’ll be very competitive for him. He came down with a good attitude and he’s trying to get better.”
But Necas seems both ready for the challenge and aware that his play in Charlotte can be a springboard to future success.
“This is going to help me reach my goal of going back to Raleigh and playing the season there,” he said.