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About Last Season: Martin Necas Performance Review and Grade

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The Hurricanes have another dynamic offensive talent in Martin Necas, whose sophomore season gave even more glimpses at what his upside can be in the NHL.

Martin Necas maintains possession of the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Thursday, Mar. 18, 2021 in PNC Arena. The Canes lost to the Stars, 3-2 in overtime.
Kaydee Gawlik

Martin Necas 2020-21 Season By The Numbers

  • Age: 22
  • NHL Seasons: 2
  • Scoring: 14 goals, 27 assists, 41 points in 53 games
  • Advanced numbers: 53.01 CF%, 52.96 SCF%, 52.51 xGF%, 70.0 GF%
  • Average TOI: 14:29 ES, 1:51 PP, 0:58 SH
  • Contract Status: One year left on ELC

The 2021 season was just about everything you could have hoped for from Martin Necas, a young player who built on a promising rookie season, established himself as a top-six forward and a reliable producer of 5-on-5 offense and took on increased responsibilities after an injury to a key special teams weapon.

Necas laid the groundwork for his breakout sophomore season back in his rookie campaign for the Carolina Hurricanes, wherein he showed flashes of high-end skill but lacked the consistency and the ice time needed to be relied upon in the game’s key moments.

That changed last season. An early-season injury derailed Teuvo Teravainen’s 2021 campaign and necessitated an acceleration in Necas’ development and usage in all three areas of the game.

Necas quickly found himself on the team’s second penalty-killing unit alongside Sebastian Aho. Aho and Teravainen broke out midway through the 2018-19 season as a true power kill tandem that came out after Jordan Staal’s unit and pushed play in the other direction against other team’s secondary power-play units. As a result, those two found great success in not only keeping other teams off the board but also producing offense thanks to their world-class talent, otherworldly chemistry, and great reads of when to go on the offensive.

Necas filled that role seamlessly, which says a lot about both him and Aho. The chemistry that those two players had from the beginning allowed Carolina’s penalty kill to carry on without much of a hitch. The Hurricanes had the league’s third-best PK rate at 85.2% and had the fourth-most short-handed goals with seven.

The second-year forward was aggressive on the PK and used his positioning, tracking, and stick-on-puck skills to disrupt zone entries. Oftentimes, his dynamic skating ability then led to dangerous counterattacks.

One of the best stats among all Carolina skaters last season is Necas’ 54.15 xGF% on the penalty kill. When he was on the ice killing penalties, the Hurricanes were expected to score more goals than they allowed. Unfortunately, he fell just short of expectation - he was on the ice for four shorthanded goals-for and five power-play goals against.

Oh, well. I think it’s safe to say that the team will gladly accept those results.

While his penalty-killing was a surprising development, his playmaking at 5-on-5 certainly wasn’t.

For most of the season, he skated on the team’s second line with Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter. That trio supplied the much-needed second wave of offense that the team has lacked at times, even during their playoff seasons in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

While the Aho and Jordan Staal lines took on other teams’ top-sixes, Necas’ line was often able to outmatch depth lines. As a result, they put up some gaudy scoring numbers. At 5-on-5, the Niederreiter-Trocheck-Necas trio scored 12 goals and rendered just six. Most of that production came early in the season, though. By February 21, they had scored seven goals and allowed just one. The rest of the season, the trio broke even at 5-on-5 and saw their production rate drop substantially.

Trocheck’s injury certainly played a role in that. When he was out of the lineup, Aho played a lot of minutes with the two wingers, and their production was still outstanding, striking a 6-to-1 goal share at 5-on-5.

Necas’ primary role in the team’s success came by way of his playmaking ability. His 5-on-5 primary shot assists/60 trailed only Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and surprisingly, Steven Lorentz among Carolina skaters, according to Corey Sznajder’s tracking.

His combination of speed and vision made him a dual-threat in creating offense. He was a lethal shooter and passer on the rush, and his straight-line speed made him an effective puck-retriever on the forecheck.

When you’re watching Necas play, his skating really jumps off of the screen. It became a common occurrence to see him skate circles around opposing teams in the offensive zone.

Literally.

That game against the Lightning on March 27 was his true coming-out party. That was the game where he really showed his game-breaking potential in the NHL. Down 2-0 to the Bolts, Necas was the catalyst for Carolina’s remarkable comeback victory.

He scored two goals and had three primary points in the team’s 4-3 win, including the game-winning, power-play tally with 3:53 left in the third period.

That was a sign of things to come for him. Necas had a knack for the dramatics throughout the season, starting with his game-winning overtime goal against that same Tampa team on Jan. 28, the club’s first game back from its COVID-induced break.

For my money, Necas scored the biggest goal of the Hurricanes’ season in game five of their first-round playoff series with the Predators. After losing back-to-back heartbreaking overtime games in Nashville, the Canes trailed 2-1 in the third period on home ice. They had absolutely no momentum in the game, and it felt like they were about to collapse.

That was until Necas’ spectacular individual effort that tied the game, forced overtime, and led to the Hurricanes winning the series four games to two.

From all standpoints, Necas was a dynamic and multi-dimensional player in his second NHL season. He went from an all-offense player in year one to a player you can trust in a variety of situations, including big moments late in games. He can pass, shoot, rush play up the ice, retrieve loose pucks, make good reads in all three zones, and anticipate plays as their developing on both sides of the puck.

Those were the next steps that everyone hoped he would take, and he delivered. There’s still plenty of development ahead of Necas as he enters his third year in the league. He does play light, so adding more strength and power to his game would make him less predictable and add another layer to what he can do offensively. He’ll never be a Svechnikov power forward type, but I don’t think he’s a finished product in that regard.

His speed plays well on the wing, but one would assume that he’ll continue to take more faceoffs, and the option is still there for him to eventually make a move to the middle of the ice. He will need to improve on faceoffs and continue to build on his 5-on-5 defensive game for that to happen, though.

While his penalty-killing ability was very impressive, there’s still work for him to do in becoming a real 200-foot player. There are still moments where he doesn’t totally bear down (or, should I say, Dig In) in the defensive zone. That can often lead to failed clearing attempts and missed coverages.

For now, though, you have to be happy with where he is at as a winger, and even if Trocheck isn’t as productive as he was last season, we’ve seen how well those two operate together. His chemistry with Aho gives him versatility as well as a guy who can move around the forward lineup and be able to mesh well with different line partners.

You can safely add Necas to the growing list of young players that the Hurricanes should be very excited about. He has things in his toolkit that you simply can’t teach. The sky is the limit for number 88.

Poll

How would you grade Martin Necas’ 2020-21 season?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    A - Outstanding Performance
    (168 votes)
  • 49%
    B - Above Average Performance
    (171 votes)
  • 2%
    C - Average Performance
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    D - Below Average Performance
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F - Significantly Below Average Performance
    (1 vote)
347 votes total Vote Now