Hurricanes' Necas wants to make jump to NHL

Czech center Martin Necas, the Carolina Hurricanes' first-round draft pick this year, has been impressive in training camp and his goal is to make the Canes' roster at 18. But he also has other options.
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Czech center Martin Necas, the Carolina Hurricanes' first-round draft pick this year, has been impressive in training camp and his goal is to make the Canes' roster at 18. But he also has other options.
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Hockey

Five takeaways from Canes camp: day three

By Chip Alexander

calexander@newsobserver.com

September 17, 2017 04:16 PM

Thoughts, observations and notes from the Carolina Hurricanes training camp on day three:

▪ Remember Gregory Hofmann? The Swiss forward was drafted by Carolina in 2011, but with only a couple of exceptions – Canes prospects camp in 2011 and 2015 – has stayed in Switzerland the past six years.

But Hofmann, 24, is back, invited to training camp. He doesn’t have a contract with the Carolina organization and is missing the start of the Swiss season with his team, HC Lugano. He also may soon have a decision to make.

If Hofmann doesn’t make the Canes roster, the organization may want to sign him and assign him to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Then again, he has a contract with HC Lugano.

“I want to show them I can play with this team and that I’m ready,” Hofmann said Sunday. “I think I’m a totally different player than I was three or four years ago. I’m stronger. My shot is stronger. I think I’m ready to jump and take the next step.”

▪ There’s no doubting Julien Gauthier’s dedication to fitness. His father and grandfather were champion bodybuilders in Canada, he knows his way around the weight room and he’s big guy at 6-4 and 230 pounds.

But the forward, a first-round pick by the Canes in 2016, can skate and has stamina. In skating drills Sunday to close out practice, Gauthier seemed a car-length or two ahead of his pack at times.

Coaches and management notice such things. Certainly coaches like Bill Peters and Rod Brind’Amour, the former Canes captain and assistant coach who is a fitness freak.

▪ Good turnout Sunday for the annual Canes Carnival. The autograph lines on the second level at PNC Arena were longer than last year, another indication of a bigger buzz and higher expectations for this team.

“I’d rather have high expectations than none at all,” Canes coach Bill Peters said.

The 10:30 a.m. practice was made up of the veterans and players who had some NHL experience. A second practice, at 1:30 p.m., had the young guys.

On Saturday, with different groups, the Canes staff had Martin Necas at center with Gauthier and Aleksi Saarela – a pretty intriguing line. Canes general manager Ron Francis expected Saarela, who had offseason shoulder surgery, to be held out of contact work the first week of camp and miss exhibition games. But Saarela, another Finnish forward, was ready when camp began.

▪ It’s hard for now to gauge the depth the Canes have in net. After goalies Scott Darling and Cam Ward, there are four others getting a look in camp – Callum Booth, Jeremy Smith, Alex Nedeljkovic and Jeremy Helvig.

Nedeljkovic, a former second-round draft pick, is coming off an uneven season that was split between the AHL and ECHL. He was 8-14-1, with a 3.40 goals-against average and .881 save percentage, in 25 games for the Checkers.

Smith, who played 10 games for the Colorado Avalanche and 17 in the AHL last season, was signed in July and figures to be the No. 1 goalie in Charlotte. But after that ...

▪ It didn’t take long for the first roster cuts. The Canes on Sunday sent five players back to their junior teams:

Forwards Stelio Mattheos (Brandon, WHL), Morgan Geekie (Tri-City, WHL) and Hudson Elynuik (Spokane, WHL); and defensemen Noah Carroll (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) and Brendan De Jong (Portland, WHL).

The camp size now is 54 players. That includes center Nicolas Roy, sidelined with a concussion.