The Carolina Hurricanes are off to a strong start this season, holding a 8-3-1 record through 12 games. While there’s a lot to like about the team, one of the biggest storylines has been the development of forward Martin Necas.
Necas, originally selected 12th overall by the Hurricanes back in 2017, is in his fourth full NHL season. If the first bit of the year is any indication, we could see a breakout year for for the forward.
There’s never been any question about his talent. Necas is dynamic offensively, with all the tools needed to be a top forward for Carolina. He has a ton of speed when he uses it and has shown off great agility at times. Necas’ dangerous shot makes him a threat any time he has the puck in the offensive zone and he has the playmaking ability to open lanes and find teammates with some great passes.
The issue has just been that Necas hasn’t necessarily always been consistent. While those skills are apparent at times, he hasn’t necessarily put it together consistently.
Following a great 2020-21 season, where Necas scored at a pace of 22 goals and 63 points per 82 games, his numbers saw a decline last season, when he managed just 14 goals and 40 points in 78 games.
This year though, Necas has already scored seven goals and 17 points in 12 games, sitting two points ahead of Sebastian Aho for most on the team. While the Hurricanes are loaded with quality talent up front, Necas has been the standout. The big difference may be how much he’s able to do on his own, looking more confident while controlling the puck and driving play consistently.
His shooting percentage is high and likely to be somewhat unsustainable, but it's actually only slightly higher than what he posted through 64 games during the 2019-20 season. A more notable difference comes in Necas' increased shots and attempts: he's averaging 3.1 shots per game and 5.9 shot attempts this season, compared to 2 shots and 3.8 shot attempts per game last season.
While Carolina has gotten off to a good start though, their offense hasn’t necessarily been without flaws. The Hurricanes are tied for 18th in the league in goals per game this season (3.08 GPG), compared to their ninth-ranked offense last season (3.38 GPG). It’s still early, but a key reason for this has to do with who’s producing and who isn’t.
So far this season, Necas, along with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, have combined for 22 of the team’s 37 goals – roughly 60 per cent. So while the three have been excellent, other forwards have been trailing behind production-wise.
Necas, Aho and Svechnikov each have at least 14 points this season. The next highest-producing forwards though, Seth Jarvis and Stefan Noesen, have just six points. As a result, it tells the story of just how important Necas has been. If you apply Necas’ per 82 paces from last season to the 12 games of this year, it would work out to roughly two goals and six points, a fraction of his seven goals and 17 points. While Aho and Svechnikov are consistent producers, it’s a bit concerning to think about how Carolina may have started the season offensively if Necas hadn't taken such a step.
If Necas can continue to be consistent this season, there’s no reason he can’t hit 30 goals, along with point-per-game numbers. He has all the talent and at just 23 years old, Necas looks to be well on his way to establishing himself as one of Carolina’s most valuable players.