We’ve made it to the ninth player in our Sharks 2015-16 season review. Be sure to check out our previous player reviews:
Hertl just continues to get better every season and his 46 points this year was a vast jump from his 31-point output in 2014-15.
Naturally a center, Hertl was thrust onto the top line at left wing this year with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. While he certainly prefers and is more comfortable at center, he was impressive as a winger, finishing the season with a plus-16 rating. He was a catalyst for Pavelski and Thornton having huge seasons in their 30’s.
As a power forward with good size, Hertl is an all-around player who does little things well that may not show on the stat sheet. He is physical along the boards, wins face-offs, has a great goal-scoring ability and is a fine playmaker. He also contributed on the second line of the power play when the whole squad was healthy.
His recognition may have finally gained traction with fans around the league in the playoffs when he scored 11 points and was on the ice for a very impressive 17 minutes and 47 seconds per game. He scored a goal in Game 1 of all four series, and was arguably the best player in a few losses – Game 1 against the Blues and Games 1 and 2 against Pittsburgh.
One of the more critical keys for teams searching for playoff success is staying out of the penalty box, and Hertl was as disciplined as you could ask. In 20 postseason games, he received two minor penalties, tied for the fewest on the team with Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi.
That second power-play unit which usually consisted of Hertl, Joel Ward, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin and Donskoi was nowhere near as dominant as the first in the playoffs – scoring just three goals on the man advantage all postseason – yet Hertl scored two of those goals.
Hertl finished with the 20th best Corsi percentage in the league (min. 500 minutes) in the regular season at 56.5 percent, which also happened to be the best number on the entire squad. When Hertl was on the ice, San Jose was outshooting opponents at a high rate.
Additionally, he was the team’s best player in the face-off circle, winning over 56 percent of draws in the regular season and 55.5 percent in the playoffs.
Defending isn’t necessarily a huge issue with him, but it’s something he can work on, especially when team teal are a man down. Hertl not being a penalty kill contributor basically all season was a sign the coaching staff would like to see him improve in that area, as he numbered just over two minutes on the penalty kill in 81 games played.
However, that can be improved on with practice and he still was only 21 on opening night last season. There is plenty of time to work on his game before he nears the prime of his career.
Hertl’s absence in the final four games against Pittsburgh due to a knee injury was a devastating blow to the Sharks. He scored the franchise’s first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final in Game 1 and was one of the few in teal who played well in Game 2.
You don’t have to look at the stats to know that a first-line player on a team in the Stanley Cup Final is a stud. Hertl should become a consistent 60-point scorer in what should be a very long and successful career, which hopefully will all be as a San Jose Shark. With most of the Sharks’ best players up there in age (Thornton – 36, Marleau – 36, Pavelski – 31, Burns – 31), Hertl is a player this organization will count on for the next decade.
The idea that he just turned 22 this season and is already this good of a player is a beautiful thought for Sharks fans. If all goes well with his knee recovery, he should be healthy by October and if so, I would expect Hertl to gain even more confidence and reach that 50-point plateau for the first time.