Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a few catch up notes from Canes hockey conversations that I have had over the past few days.
I have had multiple people ask for my thoughts and/or share theirs on the Martin Necas situation. At the most basic level, I see Necas as the kind of pure playmaking center with speed that the Hurricanes desperately need. Patience is in order for an 18-year old 2017 draftee, but I think he projects into that role and that it could be sooner rather than later. I posted a detailed assessment of Martin Necas on September 28.
In the here and now after the first regular season game, here are my thoughts on Martin Necas…
I think the greatest odds (by far) are that he eventually plays elsewhere for the vast majority of the 2017-18 season. I say that for two reasons. First is that I think it is unlikely that he makes the Hurricanes significantly better as a wing for the 2017-18 season. As I said in the previous article, I think he is capable of playing at the NHL level and holding his own, but the bar to stay has to be set higher than ‘could do it.’ That gets to the second reason which is that I think his long-term development is best served playing a full season in a variety of roles at the center position.
So why is he still at the NHL level then? I think there are three reasons. The first is that it is simply a reward for his play since being drafted. He has legitimately played his way up the depth chart and to within range of being an NHLer and is being rewarded for it. Second is that I think the Hurricanes think that a little bit more exposure to the NHL level even if it is at a practice level will benefit Necas’ development. Best bet is that he returns to the Czech Republic where he played last year, so he will gain more development-wise for a few weeks practicing with (and possibly playing with the Hurricanes) and giving up a few games in the Czech Republic or possibly elsewhere. Finally, I think he showed enough flash in preseason that Bill Peters and Ron Francis think there is at least a chance that they find lightning in a bottle if he does get a game or two in the regular season before the clock hits nine games and a decision must be made. Every day that he is with the team he is learning and absorbing in terms of system, role and also the wing position on the Hurricanes. I think the odds are against it, but there is definitely some chance that Necas gets a game or two, wows and never looks back as he starts his NHL career ahead of schedule just like Jeff Skinner did a few years back.
The blue line minus Trevor van Riemsdyk
After an awkward fall into the boards, the Hurricanes are expected to take to the ice minus van Riemsdyk on Tuesday against Columbus. The simplest alternative is to put #7 defenseman Klas Dahlbeck into that spot. The issue is that Dahlbeck struggled early through the front part of the 2016-17 season trying to play on the right side (which is the off side for him). Dahlbeck looked like a completely different player when he logged time on his natural left side later in the season.
It will be interesting to see how Peters handles the situation. Simplest might be to slot Dahlbeck in van Riemsdyk’s slot and then be both limited and selective with the third pairings ice time and match ups especially early until he sees how it is going.
Another interesting alternative would be to move Jaccob Slavin to the right side. Slavin’s drop off playing on his right side is very small if anything. Such a move would effectively see Fleury bumped up into the top 4 which might be a bit premature.
My guess is that Peters will go a bit into random scramble mode for who plays with whom on Tuesday and also will lean really heavily on his top defensemen. Entering only the second game of the season everyone should be relatively rested, and the Hurricanes have three days off before their next game. I think Fleury and Dahlbeck will both log some ice time with stronger partners, and I also would not be surprised to see a couple of the top defensemen push up to 25 or 26 minutes if the game is close.
The subtle goodness of Victor Rask
Victor Rask’s quiet second half of the 2016-17 season is well-documented at this point, and he ideally does need to find a higher gear offensively. (His two points on Saturday were obviously a nice step in that direction.) But watching him in person again without being limited to the puck-tracking camera angles of television broadcasts served as reminder of just how good Rask is with the significant subtleties of positioning and decision-making. He had a sequence on a single shift on Saturday that was a perfect illustration. In the span of a shift, he skated a perfect lane coming back into the defensive zone that the Wild player carrying the puck straight into the Hurricanes defenseman with no room to cut back to the middle where Rask was close enough to cut him off. And at the same time, Rask managed to stay in the passing lane to the player coming through the middle of the ice who was his responsibility. Then a few seconds later, he helped a defenseman win a puck in the corner by sealing off a Wild player’s path to the puck and a couple seconds later made himself available for a short, safe pass off the wall to relieve pressure on the defenseman deep in his own end. The 2017-18 will be a test for where Rask’s ceiling ultimately lies in terms of raw offensive production, but regardless of scoring totals, he continues to show the the less exciting skill set that makes him a capable NHL centerman at a minimum.
What say you Canes fans?
1) How do you think Peters will maneuver the blue line to replace van Riemsdyk’s ice time?
2) What are your thoughts on Martin Necas specifically for the 2017-18 season?