Hertl's Return Adds Explosiveness to Sharks

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 12:41 PM PT / News
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Hertl\'s Return Adds Explosiveness to Sharks
The return of rookie forward Tomas Hertl adds a whole new element to the offensive attack of the San Jose Sharks entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The San Jose Sharks obviously were hoping they'd found a gem in Czech forward Tomas Hertl when he was selected at No. 17 in the 2012 NHL Draft.

And they weren't disappointed when he made the opening-night roster this season at age 19. He scored six goals in his first three games, including a dazzling four-goal game against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8; he was the youngest player since Jimmy Carson in 1988 to score four in a game.

"He just thinks the game at a higher level," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told USA Today earlier this season. "He's a pretty well-rounded player. He plays in all three zones. He's defensively aware; he's got the sense to play with some high-end players."

Hertl had 25 points to lead all rookies when his season came to a crashing halt Dec. 19 against the Los Angeles Kings. A knee-on-knee collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown left Hertl with two damaged ligaments in his right knee. The ligaments were surgically repaired Dec. 31.

It was feared Hertl would be lost for the season, but he began skating in late February and returned to the lineup April 11, with two games remaining in the regular season.

The Sharks haven't struggled much since Hertl was injured, but his potential return to form adds an extra element of explosiveness to the lineup at the most important time of the season.

"I am very excited because it's four months of not playing hockey," Hertl said the day he returned. "I'm very happy [it's] before playoffs. I hope it's all good and knee is OK. I'm ready to play, and ready to play in the playoffs."

When Hertl went out of the lineup, he was playing on the Sharks' top line, alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Joe Pavelski has found a home there for now. Though Hertl could regain that prime spot, coach Todd McLellan has the luxury of not needing to rush the rookie.

In Hertl's first game he started on the third line, with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels, and also saw some power-play time.

McLellan said it would be an ongoing assessment to see where Hertl best fits in the lineup.

"We'll play it shift-by-shift," he said. "He'll give us an indication fairly early of what his condition level is like, and timing, and all that."

McLellan tried to downplay Hertl's return; because Hertl turned 20 a month before his injury and he has fewer than 40 games of NHL experience.

"It's an exciting thing to see him back in the lineup," McLellan said the morning it was announced Hertl would return. "But we're tempering that excitement. … If he comes out and scores and has a great game that's fabulous, but this young player hasn't played since early December."

However, the addition of a player as dynamic and gifted as Hertl only bolsters the Sharks' already strong Stanley Cup chances.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 236 226 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 248 201 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 232 208 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 229 189 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 242 222 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 231 201 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 230 210 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 241 216 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 220 205 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 261 260 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 219 227 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 228 232 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 198 283 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 170 272 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 37 33 12 70
L. Couture 82 27 40 -6 67
J. Thornton 78 16 49 -4 65
B. Burns 82 17 43 -9 60
P. Marleau 82 19 38 -17 57
T. Wingels 75 15 21 -7 36
T. Hertl 82 13 18 -5 31
M. Nieto 72 10 17 -12 27
M. Karlsson 53 13 11 -3 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 31 23 7 .914 2.59
A. Stalock 8 9 2 .902 2.62
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