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Carolina Hurricanes forward Martin Necas
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Necas rewarding Hurricanes’ patience

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Highly touted prospects are consistently called on to produce shortly after their draft year, sometimes hindering their growth as players.

Whether the club is competing for the Stanley Cup, looking to become a contender or facing a salary cap dilemma, young players on entry-level contracts have become a staple in the NHL.

For the Carolina Hurricanes, the patience they showed during Martin Necas’ development process has proven to be beneficial.

Necas has recorded 13 points through 19 games, including an assist on Dougie Hamilton’s game-winning goal Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old forward darted into the offensive zone and could not complete a breakaway opportunity midway through overtime. However, instead of losing his composure, Necas stayed with the play, retrieved the puck and set up Hamilton to help Carolina secure a 5-4 victory.

Carolina selected Necas with the 12th pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft. Necas played one game in the NHL that season before returning to the Czech Republic. Last year, Necas had a seven-game stint with the Hurricanes, but the organization felt he needed more fine-tuning in the American Hockey League, where he helped the Charlotte Checkers capture the Calder Cup.

The pressure surrounding a first-round pick is omnipresent during the development process and only heightens when the prospect needs additional time outside the NHL. The situation is even more magnified when the big club is contending for a championship and contemplating a major trade deadline acquisition or a promotion from within.

But Carolina’s front office resisted the urge to disrupt Necas’ development and is reaping the rewards from that tough decision this season.

If Necas continues to produce, he will be in contention for a different Calder Trophy this season. While an individual award is an accomplishment, Carolina is hoping its patience will be rewarded as the team looks to build on its Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season.

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• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

AHL’s Calder Cup is also good for making buffalo wings

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The bowl on top of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup is useful like that of the top of the Stanley Cup. Toss some champagne or other alcohol, or maybe some ice cream or cereal, or even some good ol’ Italian food inside and enjoy.

If you’re former Charlotte Checkers forward Andrew Poturalski, you get creative. Not only did he help the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate win the Calder Cup last June, he also took home playoff MVP honors, which earned him another award — the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy — which features a bowl on top.

So back home in Buffalo for his day with the Calder Cup, the Checkers captain enjoyed himself some buffalo wings.

Aside from helping Poturalski get plenty of sauce on his wings, the MVP trophy was also used for popcorn, according to the Buffalo News.

“Everyone has their traditions, and I wanted to do something that was special to Buffalo,” Poturalski said.

The undrafted Poturalski moved on to the Anaheim Ducks organization this summer after four seasons with the Checkers.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hurricanes prospect to miss training camp due to cancer treatment

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The Carolina Hurricanes will be without prospect Stelio Mattheos during training camp next month as the forward undergoes treatment for testicular cancer.

“I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to offer support and well wishes since the diagnosis,” said Mattheos in a statement via the Hurricanes. “I’ve had amazing support from my friends, family, teammates, coaches and all of the hockey organizations I’ve been a part of, including the Hurricanes, Checkers and Brandon Wheat Kings.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to my surgeon, Dr. Sabeer Rehsia, and all of the staff at Grace Hospital, as well as Dr. Piotr Czaykowski at Cancer Care Manitoba and all of the nurses on the chemotherapy ward.” 

According to the team, Winnipeg native was diagnosed in June, two days after helping the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers win the Calder Cup and three days before his 20th birthday. Mattheos, a third-round pick in 2017, underwent surgery to remove one testicle and has been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy this summer. 

Mattheos, who’s expected to make a full recovery, played his junior hockey in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings before signing an entry-level deal and joining up with the Checkers in March. He played 11 regular season games and 14 in the playoffs. Once his treatments are finished and he’s given the green light, he can resume training and work his way back to returning to the lineup.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Weather forces AHL’s Charlotte Checkers to play game in empty arena (Video)

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The Director of Finance/Controller filled in as the public address announcer. The Chief Operating Officer acted as the arena DJ. Ticket sales staff? They worked as the ice crew. A corporate salesperson ran the video board. The camerawoman regularly handles merchandise. Even the mascot, Chubby, was played by a corporate servicing specialist.

Wednesday night wasn’t your typical American Hockey League game at Bojangles’ Coliseum for the Charlotte Checkers. Inclement weather in the area forced the team to close the game to the public. But since the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and referees were already in town, and it would have been difficult to get Bridgeport back to Charlotte for a makeup, it was game on.

So in front of a crowd of, well, Checkers employees doubling as game operations staff, the teams played and the home side came out on top 4-3, thanks to a three-goal third period.

Here’s what a goal by the home team sounded like:

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The lack of a crowd didn’t stop the Checkers from acting like it was a normal game day. The mascot kept working and even “Cotton-Eyed Joe” was played to rev up the…players, I guess? It also wouldn’t have been a game night without the “Kiss Cam.”

This wasn’t the first time the team has played a game that was closed to the public. Back in 2016 Winter Storm Jonas caused a number of sporting events to be postponed, but not for the Checkers, who had their staff run the game.

The Checkers are off the next two days as they prepare to face the Rochester Americans in a two-game set this weekend. The weather in Charlotte will be much better over the next couple of days, which means the Checkers’ staff will be able to get back to their regular jobs.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canes’ Murphy: ‘I was a little spoiled last year’

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Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy is in his second full season with the organization and getting used to the shuttle service between Carolina and Charlotte.

He began this season, like last, with the Hurricanes, but once again has seen time in the American Hockey League with the Checkers.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster… getting the demotion and going down and playing in Charlotte,” Murphy told PHT this week. “But I took it as an opportunity to work hard and get back up here.

“The last 10 games since I’ve been (in the NHL) have been good to me.”

Murphy made the Canes’ opening day roster last season out of training camp and appeared in 48 games with Carolina recording 12 points, 10 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating while averaging 18:17 in ice time a night. Near the midway mark of the season the Canes sent Murphy to the AHL where he appeared in 22 games scoring three goals and 22 points to go along with a plus-7 rating.

Murphy isn’t frustrated at the notion of going through a similar process this season.

“I think I was a little spoiled last year,” he said. “I never got a taste of the American league, I went straight to the NHL (from junior) and getting that demotion just over the halfway mark, near the Olympic break, was a bit upsetting for me, but then again, it was an opportunity for me to go down and try to work hard to get back up.”

A year older, Murphy, 21, better understands the situation this season.

“I know how it goes, only the elite, very elite defensemen can make it as an 18, 19, 20-year-old, that’s a tough thing to do,” he said. “There’s a lot of mature hockey players out here and I’m just trying to do my best to have good body positioning and get stronger every day.”

Murphy has spent 25 games this season with the Checkers collecting 17 assists, 10 penalty minutes and a minus-7 rating. He’s had the added help of retired NHL defenseman Steve Smith, who joined the Hurricanes coaching staff in the offseason.

“Any time he tells you something about the defensive zone, you definitely want to apply it to your game,” said Muprhy. “He’s obviously a man that’s played a lot of games in this league. Although our games aren’t exactly the same, he still knows a lot and anytime he tells you anything, you really want to emphasize putting it into your game.”

Now in his second full season as a professional, Murphy understands what he needs to do to stick at the NHL level.

“Take care of my own zone first and after that, let my offensive ability take over, but defense first for sure,” he said.

Murphy is currently in the AHL and will represent the Checkers at the AHL All-Star Classic, but the expectation is he’ll return to Carolina following the All-Star break.