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New Hero Hertl Embodies Sharks Balanced Attack

Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 12:39 PM / News
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New Hero Hertl Embodies Sharks Balanced Attack
Rookie forward Tomas Hertl, with an assist from some of his young teammates, has made San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson\'s reset and refresh look more like an extreme hockey makeover.

SAN JOSE, California - When the NHL Trade Deadline approached last season, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson began what he called an organizational "reset and refresh" in an effort to build a younger, faster and grittier team that plays an attacking north/south style.

Rookie forward Tomas Hertl, with an assist from some of his young teammates, has made Wilson's "reset and refresh" look more like an extreme hockey makeover.

In just three games, the 19-year-old Hertl already has scored six goals. No other Shark in franchise history has scored more than four goals in his first three NHL games.

Hertl scored two goals Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes, his second game, then he had a history making, four-goal binge Tuesday in a 9-2 rout of the New York Rangers for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 17-4.

Hertl tied Owen Nolan's franchise record for goals in a game, set Dec. 19, 1995, against Anaheim. He also became the youngest NHL player to score four goals in a game since Jimmy Carson of the Los Angeles Kings accomplished the feat on March 20, 1988, against Calgary at the age of 19 years, 254 days.

Hertl was 76 days older when he scored his four goals against the Rangers.

While Hertl was setting records for standing ovations, being showered with hats on the ice and hearing chants of "Hertl! Hertl! Hertl!," fellow rookie forward Matthew Nieto quietly was scoring his first NHL goal and earning his first two assists in the League.

“I’m really happy for Tomas, that’s a great accomplishment, but to get my first goal, I couldn’t be happier," Nieto said. "I thought the team played well again [Tuesday].”

Nieto, a 20-year-old native of the Southern California city of Long Beach, made the Sharks' season-opening roster just two years after being taken in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft. The Sharks fast-tracked Hertl to the NHL after taking him with the 17th pick in the 2012 draft out of the Czech Republic.

Hertl and Nieto combined for seven points against the Rangers and produced countless smiles on the bench.

"It was fun, it was exciting," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone on the bench had smiles, everyone was happy for them. It's great."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said it's understandable that Hertl grabbed the spotlight Tuesday, but he said Nieto had "a great game" as well.

"He feels comfortable playing on that line, and he complements [Pavelski] and Tommy Wingels very well with his speed and his tenacity," McLellan said of Nieto. "He's on top of pucks a lot and obviously has a big of a nose for the net too."

Nieto was playing for Boston University until making his pro debut April 2 for Worcester of the American Hockey League. Now he's starting in the NHL on the Sharks' third line.

"It's awesome. It's an adjustment for sure," Nieto said. "You have to think fast and make the simple plays, but I couldn’t be happier to be here."

The Sharks nearly opened the season with three rookies on their roster, but sent center Freddie Hamilton, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick, to Worcester just before the season began. Hamilton most likely won't have to wait too long before he's on a flight to San Jose.

Wilson began making changes to his team's roster before the deadline last season, trading three veterans in exchange for draft picks, most of them in the loaded 2013 NHL Draft. He traded forward Ryane Clowe to the New York Rangers, forward Michal Handzus to the Chicago Blackhawks and defenseman Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Sharks also made a major lineup change midway through last season, moving Brent Burns from defenseman to forward and putting him on a line with center Joe Thornton. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Burns remained at forward this season on the 6-4, 220-pound Thornton's line, which now includes the 6-2, 210-pound Hertl. There are few lines in the NHL with that combination of size, skill and strength.

Wilson landed forward Raffi Torres in a deadline trade last season with the Phoenix Coyotes, adding speed and toughness to his roster in a move that has yet to fully pay dividends. Torres currently is sidelined 3-5 months after surgery to repair an ACL injury sustained in the preseason.

Wilson used a second-round draft pick, part of his trade haul, to acquire former Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy, giving the Sharks a volume-shooter with speed to play on the second line with forward Patrick Marleau and center Logan Couture, a rising star in the League.

Then in two other offseason moves, Wilson signed Couture and Pavelski to five-year contract extensions, securing two key pieces in the Sharks' long-term plans.

Thornton, Marleau and Dan Boyle -- all in the final year of their contracts -- remain highly productive, but they no longer have to shoulder most of the offensive load and pressure.

After adding Hertl, Nieto and Kennedy to the returning trio of Couture, Pavelski and Burns, the Sharks have more than enough talent to share the scoring load. Fifteen Sharks had at least one point against the Rangers.

Hertl, of course, led the way with four points as he continued living a "dream" and filling up the net with pucks.

"I'm very happy," Hertl said. "My three games, I'm very happy."

So are the new-look Sharks.

Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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