BUFFALO, NY – Martin Necas is hoping a decision to forego playing in the Canadian Hockey League for an opportunity to play professionally in his native Czech Republic will make him a more attractive prospect to NHL clubs at this month’s draft.
The six-foot-one, 178-pound centre spent this season playing against men in the Czech Extraliga with HC Kometa Brno.
“I thought about it before last season, and I want to play with men,” Necas said of his decision to stay close to home over the Canadian junior league. “I made it and it was very good experience for me so I want to continue to play with men in Czech.
“It was a very good experience for me. I wanted to play with men rather than CHL in Canada so it was my decision with my agent. I hope so it was (beneficial).”
Playing alongside men as much as twice his age offered with Brno provided an excellent learning experience for Necas.
“Its different style of hockey,” he said. “More defensive style. You have to be stronger. Older guys are stronger and they are so smart and skilled. It was very good for me. I watched guys, learned from guys, they are older than me and they are working hard every day. It’s good for me.”
The 18-year-old is an excellent, shifty skater, which makes him difficult to contain. He is an undersized forward; who plays an up-tempo style of hockey. Despite his slender frame, Necas competes hard and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice. According to scouts, Necas gets himself into trouble when he tries to play bigger than he is.
“Smart and gifted offensive player - very good offensive instincts,” said ISS Hockey Scouting Director Dennis MacInnis. “Shows poise with puck and distributes puck and can beat you by himself.
“Needs to add size and strength should be good pro prospect”.
ISS Hockey has Necas ranked 13th overall for the draft, which goes June 23-24 at Chicago’s United Center. The Hockey News has Necas ranked 12th for the draft while NHL Central Scouting has him fifth amongst European skaters.
With Brno Necas scored seven goals and eight assists in 41 games this past season. He admitted the transition from playing against kids his own age to skating alongside men took time to adjust to.
“A season ago I played with just Under-18 in Brno so it was different,” Necas said. “Different style of hockey so after a month in the locker room (I felt comfortable). First month I was a little bit quiet and I spoke with just the younger guys, but after a month it was great and the guys were great.”
Internationally Necas has represented the Czech Republic on multiple occasions including the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
At the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Necas scored one goal and two assists in five games, but the Czechs won just one preliminary round game and were eliminated by the Canadians following a 5-3 loss in the quarterfinals.
“It was the biggest tournament that I ever played in,” he said. “The fans were amazing and Montreal was great. Very good tournament (with) the best players in the world.
“I think Czech is hockey country and fans are great. In every city in Czech, hockey is probably the top sport. Fans are great and I think our hockey is getting better.”
Scouts project Necas to be a Top-6 forward, who could be an option on the second unit power play, at the NHL level.
Necas, drafted by Traktor Chelyabinsk in the first round of the 2016 KHL draft, plans to return to the Czech Extraliga for next season where he’ll continue to work on adding size along with his physical play.
Compared to Marko Dano of the Winnipeg Jets, Necas says he watches Evgeni Kuznetsov closely trying to model his game after the Washington Capitals forward.
“I’m watching Evgeni Kuznetsov, Claude Giroux or David Krejci - I’m watching highlights of games and it was very good to see them,” he said. “They’re very good playmakers. David Krejci is a really good two-way centre and David Pastrnak - it is my dream to be like him, but I need to put in the hard work.”
Krejci and Pastrnak aren’t the only countrymen Necas hopes to one day play against in the NHL. The native of Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic hopes to one day face off against Jaromir Jagr.
“He’s a great player, one of the best players in the NHL,” said Necas. “I hope I make it to the NHL and he will be there still.”