The Czech Republic is, traditionally, the home of speed and skill when it comes to forwards. It's also the home of some pretty good NHL players too, one guy in particular called Jaromir Jagr comes to mind.
The current Florida Panther is the standard by which all other Czech players will be judged for many years to come, and one of the youngsters hoping to follow in his footsteps is Kometa Brno's 18-year-old speedster, Martin Nečas (pronounced neh-chass, in case you're wondering).
Martin Nečas - Flash Stats
HC Kometa Brno - 41 Games - 7 Goals - 8 Assists - 15 Points - 6 PIM
Worlds U18 – 15 Games - 4 Goals - 9 Assists - 13 Points - 6 PIM
Worlds U20 – 8 Games - 2 Goals - 4 Assists - 6 Points - 2 PIM
Martin Necas 2017 NHL draft profile | SB Nation NHL Draft Match
Martin Necas could be the top European forward in the NHL Draft.Posted by SB Nation NHL on Monday, June 5, 2017
The 6 foot, 168lb native of Nové Město na Moravě (Newtown) in the central Czech Republic is one of the proudest products of his small, 10,500 inhabitant home, which up until now is most famous as a winter sports resort. It's also the home of the First Lady of the Czech Republic, which means that Nečas could have some pretty illustrious fans cheering him on in the draft this June.
Playing wise, Nečas is, without question, the definition of "speed kills". He's incredibly quick and agile, even in a hockey nation that traditionally emphasizes these qualities in its players, and better on the edge of his skates than many players are in a straight line. His confidence and joy for the game shine through at every opportunity, and he appears to be fearless in taking players on, using the logic that ‘you can't hit what you can't catch’.
This may cause him a few problems as he steps up to the NHL, which is traditionally far less open and much more tight-checking than the Czech Extraliga, particularly with his relatively small size. However, his shot and stick-handling are world-class, as can be seen from these highlights of him performing against his peers at the World Junior Championship.
What is evident in these clips that is perhaps a little harder to see in the traditional "goals and assists" montages that tend to clog up the Internet for us prospect hunters at this time of year, is just how hard Nečas works and how much he loves to bring others into the play as well as shoot, himself. He's constantly looking for the killer pass and has that rare talent of making the game look like it's slowing down around him. He's a player who always seems to have the time to do what he wants.
Again, it remains to be seen whether or not this game will adjust to the tighter-checking environment of the NHL, but that's the case for all forwards. Nečas has the advantage over other centers, like Dylan Strome and Gabriel Vilardi, in that his skating is just as quick as his mind and hands, allowing him to elude pressure in a way that other players like him can't.
It's also notable how fast his decision making is. This is a player who already has an idea of what he wants to do with the puck and, crucially, where his teammates are going to be when he does it. Nečas is a thinker of the game who relies on brains, not brawn, to unlock defenses, a welcome trend in a sport that has traditionally rated bigger players with average hands higher than smaller players with superb hands.
If there is a downside on Nečas from a Coyotes perspective, it might be that they already have one of him, who coincidentally, they took at the same spot last year. Clayton Keller is a year ahead of the Czech in development, plays in a very similar fashion (they even both cite Patrick Kane as the player they try and model their respective games after), and plays in the same position. In a draft where talent is spread pretty widely, the Coyotes may consider it unwise to use a number 7 pick on a duplicate of a player they already have, no matter how high the ceiling.
Essentially, Martin Nečas is Clayton Keller the Second. While that's excellent for the NHL, it isn't for the Coyotes - there are more urgent needs to address.