RALEIGH, N.C. -- Martin Necas arrived at Carolina Hurricanes development camp a year ago as an 18-year-old center with modest English skills and a lot to prove.
"Having last year for the first time, this is my second, so I was pretty excited," Necas said in June.
This summer, Necas, who was selected by the Hurricanes with the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, appeared a step ahead of his teammates at camp.
"His game has gotten better, he's gotten a little bigger, and he's a lot more confident than he was last year," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I think he's a night-and-day player already from a year ago."
Necas made Carolina's opening night roster last season and made his NHL debut in a 5-3 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 17 before returning to play in the Czech Extraliga, where he had 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 24 games for HC Kometa Brno.
He also played for the Czech Republic in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and tied Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt for the tournament lead with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in seven games.
"It was a good year for him to go back and play overseas," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. "He had an opportunity to play in the World Championship and we got to scout him through the tournament. We think he took a huge step forward. It's a men's tournament and he certainly didn't look out of place."
Video: Svechnikov and Necas improve Hurricanes' offense
Necas' explosive speed makes him a dangerous set-up man anywhere in the offensive zone, and the Hurricanes hope he is ready to make the jump to the NHL this season.
"I think I'm a playmaker," Necas said. "I like to play with the puck, preparing chances for my teammates, trying to score. I think last year I improved my defensive game and my face-offs, which are really important in the NHL."
With the Hurricanes thin down the middle, the door is open for Necas to make the roster.
"I'm trying to prepare for the NHL every day," Necas said. "I'm working hard, getting stronger and working on my skills on the ice. That has been my dream the last five years, to make the roster this year."
The Hurricanes added some intrigue to development camp when Brind'Amour immediately paired Necas with forward Andrei Svechnikov, was selected by Carolina with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
"The sooner they get a feel for each other, the better," Brind'Amour said. "They're going to be teammates for a long time. These guys are going to be driving the ship here in the years to come, so you start that process as soon as you can."
Necas smiled when asked about being a tandem in the near future.
"I think there might be some chemistry between us," he said. "We've been enjoying it."