After bursting onto the NHL scene at 19-years-old in 2013, Tomas Hertl has somewhat faded into the background.
He sustained a long-term knee injury in the middle of his rookie season, and last season the whole team slumped.
So this season is his big chance to regain his rookie form, and solidify his place amongst the Sharks top players.
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On Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks obliterated the Colorado Avalanche 6-1 at the Shark Tank. Not only did this signify a
Not only did this signify a much-needed turn in home form – and get “Jumbo” Joe Thornton his 1,300th career point – it also saw the Czech first-rounder score a goal and an assist, getting him to 11 points in his last ten games.
San Jose’s Czech wunderkind
After being drafted 17th overall in 2012, the Sharks allowed Tomas Hertl to return to Slavia Praha so that he could refine his game. Their patience paid dividends almost immediately.
Hertl started his first game in teal on October 3, at the start of the 2013/14 season. The Czech teen assisted Brent Burns’ equaliser in San Jose’s 4-1 win over Vancouver, the opening game of the season.
But that was just the start. In the next two games, Hertl scored six goals – two against the then Phoenix Coyotes, and four against the Rangers.
San Jose’s new starlet became the youngest player to have a four-goal game since 1988, when he finished with this incredible highlight reel move.
This amazing goal put Hertl on the map, but some scrutinised him for it, saying that it was showboating and not necessary in the NHL.
Luckily, the great Roberto Luongo silenced the neigh-sayers as he perfectly summed up the situation in an interview, and tweet, below – per CanucksVid.
After 25 points in 35 games, Hertl was lighting up the NHL, standing as one of the league’s top contender for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
But then, in one of the most heated fixtures in the league, Tomas Hertl sustained a bad knee injury after LA’s Dustin Brown laid a dirty knee-on-knee hit on the young star – Brown was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his foul.
Hertl would only play two more games in his rookie year, as he required surgery on the Kings-inflicted knee injury.
The slump season
The 2014/15 season saw the San Jose Sharks fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. The failed season saw the SAP Center residents sack their long-term head coach, Todd McLellan.
Hertl, returning from his serious knee injury, played all 82 games of the season. However, he only managed to score 31 points – scoring 13 goals, which was two less than in his short rookie year.
During the off-season of the failed 2014/15 campaign, NHL.com quoted the Sharks general manager as having high hopes for Hertl, coming into 15/16:
"He's in tremendous shape.
"He looks outstanding. He's lean. He's had a full summer of training without any setbacks. He looks really, really good. As we all know he's a very important player for us. He's got a big smile back on his face, but he looks really good."
NHL Correspondent Eric Gilmore also acknowledged how good the young Czech could be this season:
“If Hertl regains his form, he could wind up on the top line at left wing with center Joe Thornton and right wing Joe Pavelski.”
Top lining with Jumbo and Captain America
Tomas Hertl is playing with the speed and confidence that he had in his rookie season, now that he’s on the ice with Joe Thornton and team captain Joe Pavelski.
His chance to shine alongside two of the team’s most elite players came after Peter DeBoer shuffled the lines to put Hertl up from third line center, to top line left winger – and to give newly returned Logan Couture a lower line role to ease him back to full fitness.
22-year-old Hertl is on for a career season after 26 points in 47 games. It’s not as explosive as his rookie point scoring but now that he’s found his feet on the top line, his points per game should continue to rise – potentially setting him up for a 60+ point season.