Hurricanes take Martin Necas with 12th pick of NHL Draft

The Carolina Hurricanes went into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft looking for offensive help, possibly a playmaking center.

The Canes believed they got that kind of player with the 12th overall pick, taking center Martin Necas of the Czech Republic in the first round Friday at Chicago’s United Center.

“We think we got a big skilled centerman who can skate, make plays and plays with a little bit of an edge,” Canes general manager Ron Francis said. “We had him high on our list and think when he develops he can be a good piece for us.”

Francis said he has had trade talks that involved moving the Canes’ first-round pick, as well as their other seven selections in the draft, but felt the best option was to use the first-rounder.

“You have to look at the value of what you’re getting,” he said. “For where we are and what we’re building, there wasn’t anything we felt comfortable giving up pick No. 12 pick for prior to making the selection.”

Necas, 18, isn’t imposing physically. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 178 pounds and quickly conceded Friday he needs to add size and strength to reach and play at the NHL level.

But Necas has excelled at every level in the Czech Republic — in junior hockey, in international competition. He has played against older professional for HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga, again impressing with his skating, speed, skill, and explosiveness in transition as Brno won the league championship.

“I’m a typical playmaker,” Necas said after being drafted. “I like to play a two-way game. I think I’m a very good skater. I do need to be stronger.”

Necas, rated one of the best skaters in this year’s draft, may not be ready for the NHL next season, and said as much Friday.

“When I was younger, the NHL is my dream,” he said. “Right now I am drafted and I need to work hard every day. I hope I can be in the NHL after one year.”

Necas was rated fifth among European skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings and 13th by International Scouting Services. Some believed he could be a top-10 pick Friday.

Necas competed for the Czech Republic in the 2017 World Junior Championship. He served as captain for the Czech Republic team in the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, leading his team to a gold medal.

The Hurricanes had used their first pick on defensemen in the past three drafts — Haydn Fleury in 2014, Noah Hanifin in 2015 and Jake Bean last year. They did select forward Julien Gauthier with a second first-round pick in 2016, 21st overall, eight picks after taking Bean.

Necas was the leading scorer in the Czech U-16 league in 2014-15, but missed several games because of injuries and sickness in 2015-16. In 41 games last season for Brno, he had seven goals and eight assists, and scored four times as Brno won a three-game final series for the league title.