RALEIGH — Ron Francis sauntered to the stage Friday night to make the 12th overall pick — there was no trade for a top-six NHL forward, no big splash at the United Center for the Carolina Hurricanes general manager who seemed to be promising big things this offseason.
But making a deal on the first night of the draft isn’t a requirement to improving your team during the offseason, and Francis and his scouting staff opted to use the pick to select Czech forward Martin Necas — who ranked No. 16 on the NSJ Top 100 prospects list — with their first-round pick.
Necas (6’1, 178 pounds) is widely considered the best skating forward in the draft (Recrutes had him second behind defenseman Cale Makar), and he’s one of the most talented players in the draft. That being said, most say Necas has to mature both physically and as a player. He’ll need to add weight and muscle to his frame, and — like most any 18-year-old — find consistency and discipline in his game.
It’s no surprise Necas wound up in Carolina after playing well captaining the Czech team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament — Francis and the scouting staff, led by Tony MacDonald, have often mentioned performances in the tournament as making an impression in their draft day decisions. The team talked about watching Sebastian Aho back in the 2013 Hlinka tournament, and Necas had two goals and four assists in four games for the Czechs at the most recent tournament.
The Hurricanes hold two picks in the second round (Nos. 42, 52) and third round (Nos. 67, 73), plus picks in the fourth, sixth and seventh round in Saturday’s Day 2 of the NHL Draft.