Due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence off the North Carolina coast, the Carolina Hurricanes will hold their first practices of training camp shortly today, as opposed to tomorrow morning, as originally scheduled. One of the biggest, if not the biggest, storylines entering this year’s camp is a pair of rookies in Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.
The No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft and No. 12 pick in 2017, respectively, arrive with considerable fanfare. Given Svechnikov’s pedigree as the No. 2 pick who scored 40 goals in 44 games in the OHL last year and the success Necas had playing against men in the Czech league, there are fairly high expectations for the duo.
The Canes will certainly need the two young guns to score at a decent clip to have success this year, especially with Jeff Skinner shipped off to Buffalo. But is that reasonable to expect? The answer that jumps to mind is, ‘No, it’s not reasonable to expect two first-year players to carry the load’.
However, while it is right that the youngsters shouldn’t be able to do everything, there is some precedence for rookie production giving teams a big boost.
Svechnikov, in particular, has history on his side. I wrote about this in depth over the summer, but No. 2 picks have a track record for producing out of their draft year, particularly big, European wingers (see Laine, Patrik).
In 2013-14, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a pair of rookie in Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson combine for 47 goals and 109 points to help vault the Bolts into the playoffs after a bottom-five finish the year before. That pair did not have the draft pedigree of Necas and Svechnikov (Johnson was undrafted), but did have some time in the AHL to marinate.
Another important factor for those two was having a pair of veteran scorers in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the top line in front of them to draw the opposition’s best defenders. While Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen aren’t on that duo’s level, they definitely check that box for Svechnikov and Necas.
Key for the duo will also be who their third linemate ends up being. Right now, that looks like Micheal Ferland, the oft-forgotten piece of the Dougie Hamilton trade who scored a career-high 21 goals for Calgary last season. Ferland did so playing primarily with one of the best top-line duos in the league in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
If he can play an important role of providing sandpaper and protection on that line for the rookies, while also driving the net to create space for them, that should help drive their production as well.
So, what’s a reasonable expectation for Svechnikov and Necas? Both are capable of earth-shattering rookie years, but a middle ground is probably more realistic for two players that have a combined one game of professional hockey experience on North American soil between them.
I’d peg the pair at somewhere from 20-25 goals and 40-45 points each, though each are certainly capable of more. If Aho and Teravainen can pick up where they left off, and the team can get secondary scoring from guys like Jordan Staal and Justin Williams, that kind of production would be a big boost for the Hurricanes. If Svechnikov and Necas can really hit that next level in year one, look out.