The subject was the initiation of young players into the NHL and the trials and travails that must be endured in the league.
You know, like a hard cross-check in the back.
Or a punch in the face from Alex Ovechkin.
Or having Andrei Vasilevskiy in net stopping every good shot you make.
As Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes put it, “You’ve got to learn to play with the big boys.”
Svechnikov, 21, isn’t a little boy and wasn’t when he came into the league in October 2018, the Canes’ first-round pick in that year’s draft and the second overall selection. Even at 18, he was physically the match of most players he faced.
“The guy looks like a Russian weight lifter,” Canes forward Jordan Martinook joked at the time.
It was different for Canes forward Martin Necas. He now weighs 190 pounds. That’s 25 more than on the day the Czech Republic native was made a first-round pick by Carolina in 2017, when he was all arms and legs.
A growing Canes’ chemistry
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour has the two playing on the same line, centered by veteran Vincent Trocheck. Svechnikov has four goals in the first three games — Necas with two primary assists — in the Canes’ 3-0-0 start.
“Those guys are really blossoming,” Brind’Amour told the media Thursday.
It was Necas with the perfect setup pass for a Svechnikov score off the rush Saturday in a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators. On Thursday, Necas threaded a pass to Svechnikov at the bottom of the right circle and Svechnikov didn’t miss on a top-shelf beauty of a shot in the Canes’ 4-1 win at Montreal.
Svechnikov has the strength to survive and thrive. Necas, 22, uses his speed and quick hands. But good players are always being tested on the ice as the other team’s guys probe for weaknesses and soft spots in a player’s game.
“My first year when I came, it was pretty hard (against) that speed and that skill,” Svechnikov said in a recent interview. “I had to catch up. But every year you’ve got more experience and that’s most important.”
Svechnikov strides forward
There are tests — of Svechnikov’s mettle, patience, maturity, experience.
In a January 2020 game against the Washington Capitals at PNC Arena, the Caps’ Brendan Leipsic shoved Svechnikov to the ice as a period ended. The Caps’ Nic Dowd picked up Svechnikov’s stick and tossed it over the glass to a Canes fan wearing a Svechnikov No. 37 jersey. That earned Dowd a 10-minute misconduct.
The word on Svechnikov: Try to rattle him, irritate him, get him off his game.
Svechnikov wasn’t happy with his two penalties in Thursday’s game in Montreal — a slashing call, then a tripping penalty. But he responded with the goal for a 2-0 lead and had a game-high seven shots.
“Svech is taking another step but he can’t take the penalties,” Brind’Amour said after the game. “He’s a very competitive guy. He has to know that they’re going to try to get under his skin and he can’t retaliate. They always get the guy who retaliates.”
Necas shows off his speed
Necas draws a lot of attention for his elite speed — and apparently a round of golf with singer Harry Styles — and has set rather simple goals for himself in his third full NHL season.
“Get better every season. That’s my expectation,” he said in a recent media interview. “Step up a little bit, play a bigger role. Maybe win more of those battles in front of the net and keep playing with the confidence that I have.”
Necas had 14 goals and 41 points in 53 games last season. That was a confidence-booster entering the third year of his entry-level contract, Necas having seen Svechnikov sign an eight-year, $62 million deal after his first three years.
“I think I haven’t shown my best,” Necas said. “I can still be better.”
Brind’Amour and the Canes are counting on it.
Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio.
TV/Radio: Bally Sports South, WCMC-FM 99.9