By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The cliché “like two peas in a pod” fits Carolina Hurricanes prospects Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas just right.
Both were the highlight attractions among a group of ambitious recent draftees and prospects in attendance at the team’s introductory conditioning camp at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
With increased fan interest and attendance as part of Summerfest activities taking place throughout the week, Svechnikov, the Hurricanes’ top pick (second overall) in this year’s 2018 NHL Draft, and Necas, the 12th overall pick in 2017, were the ones to watch.
Of course, first-year head coach Rod Brind’Amour made it easy for everyone to keep an eye on them by pairing the two together through most of the rudimentary skating, passing, and shooting drills the group went through.
“That was not a mistake, that we kind of threw them together, just for fun,” Brind’Amour said.
“Just to see. Sometimes it happens right away. That’s kind of what we’re obviously hoping for. They’re obviously two pretty important pieces to the future of this franchise, so why not get ‘em together as soon as possible, and see where it goes from there.”
Brind’Amour noted how impressed he was with the young Russian’s maturity level, while pointing out the improvement he and the staff has noticed of Necas since last year.
“I think he’s obviously grown – he’s gotten stronger, gotten a little bigger,” he said.
“He’s a lot more confident than he was last year.”
Necas concurred with Brind’Amour’s assessment overall in physical and mental preparation coming back to camp.
Since last year he’s added another inch in height, now standing at six-foot, two-inches, and bulked up to 189 pounds.
“I gained some kilos, maybe I grew up a little bit,” the Czech said.
“I try to play my game, be a good playmaker, skate a lot and play with the puck. I feel like I’m better than last year.”
Wanting, doing and saying the right things were highlights of what both Svechnikov and Necas brought to set the bar high at this year’s first on-ice session.
Every time they stepped off the ice, they didn’t sit on the bench long, hanging more on the edge of the boards, ready and waiting to get back on.
Following a short set of scrimmage-style line rushes, the group worked on some power skating drills to identify things to continue to work on and develop their skills further.
It didn’t make anyone on the ice look exceptional compared to the seasoned instructor demonstrating what he wanted to them to do, but it showed more that there’s always an opportunity to get better.
“Some of that stuff, you know, it’s great if you can do it, but how important is it to do that?” Brind’Amour said bluntly.
“If you can ever get to that level, practicing and working your edges, that’s all stuff that’s gonna get you better.”
For Svechnikov, who’s presented on so many levels that he’s willing to do what it takes to be a top player for the Hurricanes and playing in the National Hockey League, the extra knowledge and instruction on skating was welcome in order to help him accomplish that goal.
“Every time, I just try improve with everything – skating, my shot, my hands. I will try that more too.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport