Tomas Hertl had a break out year for the San Jose Sharks during 2018 – 2019. This emergence couldn’t have come at a better time for a team looking to stay relevant in today’s NHL.
The San Jose Sharks have quite a few questions to answer during free agency this summer. However finding a number one center shouldn’t be one of them with 2018 – 2019 being the year that Tomas Hertl blossomed into the player Team Teal knew they drafted back in 2012.
Flashback to last summer during free agency the San Jose Sharks were prepared to throw ridiculous amounts of money in return for the services of John Tavares. However their offer got rejected and Tavares ultimately signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs for a monster deal.
This forced General Manager Doug Wilson to rethink his approach to roster construction and eventually deciding to extend their 2012 first round pick Tomas Hertl to a 4 year 5,625,000 AAV . This contract (as well with the one inked by Logan Couture) signaled the Sharks faith in their home grown talent. Team Teal was banking on Tomas Hertl making the necessary steps to justify the commitment to the who’s never recorded more than 50 points.
Despite some of the doubt surrounding the deal Tomas Hertl flourished under the pressure put on him by the Sharks front office and coaching staff. The 24-year-old at the time was entering his 6th year in the league coming off a 46 point season. This matched his career high, but wasn’t the output that the Sharks were wanting from the Czech forward who has shown tremendous upside at times
The talent Tomas Hertl showcased at the beginning of his career started to show up on a nightly basis. The fan favorite exhibited all the tools that make him so dangerous on the ice for the San Jose Sharks. His size and strength made opposing teams lives miserable in all 3 zones. Exhibiting the ability force his way through the neutral and offensive zones shielding the puck from multiple defenders.
People unfamiliar with Hertl’s game get surprised by his smooth skating and soft hands. It’s rare to have skaters with his size as confident as the Czech forward is with his offensive capabilities, but the Sharks seem to have a few of them.
Tomas Hertl made himself known around NHL circles this season with his 74 points, registering 35 goals in 77 games. The 25-year-old soon became the main focus for opponents defenses, but that didn’t do much to slow Hertl down. Since the start of 2019 Tomas Hertl has scored the most goals and is tied for most points during that span.
He also didn’t show any signs of slowing down heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite a broken finger Tomas Hertl scored the 2nd most goals for Team Teal throughout their deep run into the postseason with 10.
Along with Tomas Hertl’s impressive scoring output this season he’s shown continued success in the face-off circle. It appears that Pete DeBoer has given a bulk of the crucial face-offs, wherever that might be on the ice to the exuberant forward.
According to puckbase, Tomas Hertl led all Sharks in face-off attempts per game with 15.4 in all situations. He was also tasked with the most draws in the defensive zone among all Sharks with 4.9. On top of this added pressure Hertl was given the most FO’s shorthanded over the course the regular season with a pace of 1.7 per game. All of this while maintaining a 51.5 F0% percentage over the course of 77 games.
The San Jose Sharks have been patient with Tomas Hertl, believing that the 25-year-old would eventually bloom into that center capable of playing first line minutes in the NHL. Not only has this happened but Hertl has finally started to showcase the propensity he had for scoring in the beginning stages of his career before injuries hindered his progress.
Tavares is an excellent player and would have made the San Jose Sharks exponentially better. But fans of Team Teal should take solace in the fact that they have a dynamic combination of centers that only cost them a combined 13,625,000 AAV for the next 3 seasons, per capfriendly. This gives Doug Wilson much more flexibility when filling out other parts of the roster (like signing Erik Karlsson).
In no way is this an argument stating that the two Sharks centers are better than a single John Tavares, but it’s good to know that the Sharks have both quality and quantity when it comes to arguably the most valuable position on the ice.
Nevertheless with the emergence of Tomas Hertl the Sharks now have a formidable 1 – 2 punch down the middle of their lineup. Pete DeBoer has the luxury of having two centers capable of taking on first line responsibilities, but each bring different skill sets to the table. It’ll be interesting to see how Hertl builds on this career year especially if the Sharks retain the pieces that made them so successful last season.