International Ice Hockey Federation

Necas' meteoric rise

Necas' meteoric rise

Young Czech star about to debut on world stage

Published 25.04.2017 09:17 GMT-4 | Author Derek O'Brien
Necas' meteoric rise
Martin Necas lifted the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup trophy a few months ago. Photo: Andreas Robanser /
As usual, the Czech U20 roster will include a mixture of players playing junior hockey in North America and playing either junior or pro hockey in Europe.

One of the more interesting stories on the team is Martin Necas, who has already established himself in the Czech Extraliga despite the fact he won't celebrate his 18th birthday until January. The upcoming World Juniors will be the first chance that most hockey fans outside his home country will have to see him play.

With now 29 pro games under his belt for Kometa Brno, Necas has six goals and seven assists – his 13 points rank him second in the league among junior-aged players behind Bili Tygri Liberec's Dominik Lakatos, another player who will be seen in Montreal. Lakatos, however, is almost two full years older than Necas.

Necas is currently projected as a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Not would have predicted that a year ago – prior to this season, he had never played hockey above the U18 level, completely skipping the U20 division. He had, however, shone with the Czech U18 national team, and was the captain of the team that captured the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup on home ice in August.

Prior to heading overseas with the rest of the European-based hopefuls trying to make the Czech national junior team, he answered a few questions about his sudden rise to prominence and the adjustments he's had to make.

Before this season, you'd never played with players older than 18. At the end of last season, did you think it would be possible to start this season in the Extraliga?

Probably not. But that was the goal I had for myself after last season, so I'm very glad I achieved it and that I'm able to play with the guys on this team, which has a long tradition and great fans.

What was the hardest adjustment you've had to make, playing with and against older players?

Everything's completely different. The biggest thing for me is the strength of the players. All of these guys are really strong. But it's also the other things going on. My very first game was in Zlin, and the fans there were really on me, heckling me. I was really shaking. It was something completely new to me, but these are learning experiences and they make us better players in the long run.

At the beginning of the season you played on Kometa's top line with Martin Erat and Marek Kvapil – veteran players who are among the top scorers in the league. What was it like to suddenly be playing with guys over 30?

It was great that at the beginning I was given a chance to play with two excellent players. They generate so many chances, so I just tried to keep up with them and play my best.

In particular, Erat has a long and distinguished career in the NHL and internationally. He's won World Junior gold, played in the Olympics... I imagine he's been a help to you, on and off the ice.

It's great because Martin is not only a great player but also a person with character. He's trying to help not only me, but all the young guys. He and the other leaders on the team advise us on how to play, how to behave. Not just about hockey, put personal life too. I'm so glad I have the chance to play alongside such great players.

What about when you're sitting on the bench beside him during the game? Does he talk about things with you or is he quiet?

He usually says something to me, whether it's giving me advice on something, or we discuss what we need to do better on the next shift. He's not usually silent.

Lately, you have moved around to different lines. Is that a difficult transition?

Again, it's different because Martin and Marek are great players and opposing teams usually put a checking line on against them, which is concentrating on defence rather than trying to score. When you play on a different line, you might get a better match-up because they're not watching those two, so it can mean more space for me. Both have their pros and cons, but it's certainly great to be on the top line.

This past summer you were captain of the Czech team that won the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. What was that experience like?

It's an honour every game, every tournament. I tried not to think about it and treat it like any other tournament, and that tournament we really came together and flourished as a team.

How is it different for you than now, with Kometa?

On a team like that all the guys are roughly the same age, so I can stand up and speak to everyone in the dressing room. With Kometa, the more experienced players do the speaking, like Leos Cermak, Martin Zatovic, Erat and others.

As for the upcoming World Junior Championship, what role do you see yourself playing on that team?

The coaches haven't brought that up with me, but if I'm on the final roster, we'll see what unfolds. Whatever role I get, I'll accept it and go with it. As long as I make the team, I don't really care what role I play.

At the moment, you are projected to be a first-round pick in next year's NHL Entry Draft. Is that something you've thought about?

Sure I've thought about it, but not as much since the season started. I'm just focusing on what I have to do now, and we'll see what happens after the season. I have to work hard every game and I hope I get drafted as high as possible. I've watched the Draft the last three or four years – I always like to watch it. It's great to think that I'll be there.

Have you thought about where you'll play next season? A lot of players in your situation go to junior hockey in Canada.

Right now it's way too early and I can't say anything in advance. Personally, I feel that I would like to play another year with Kometa, but I really don't want to look too far ahead. Things might be different six months from now, so I don't think about it and just try to play my best.


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