In an uneventful off-season, the Czech center will shoulder even more responsibility going into next season.
After a devastating season-ending ACL tear last January, Tomas Hertl is back to full health and has been back on the ice since August.
Now he, along with the other team leaders, is tasked with carrying the team back to relevance.
Last season was not pretty, the Sharks drastically fell short of expectations, and the team looked lethargic on a game to game basis.
The year was epitomized in the month of December when San Jose put up just six points.
In net, it was more of the same. Martin Jones had a .896 SV% for the second straight season, coupled with a 3.00 GAA. Team Teal brought in several new goalies. Despite that, he will almost certainly be the starter.
New captain Logan Couture struggled with injuries, and it showed in his output. In the 52 games that he did play, he posted just 39 points.
Timo Meier also had a down year. Despite playing all 70 games, he only had 49 points.
In the face of all of that, Hertl gave Sharks fans some semblance of hope for the future. When the seventh year center took the ice at the 2020 All-Star game, he truly looked elite.
During the semi-finals against the Central Division, he accounted for four goals in a 10-5 blow out. Stunning some of the best NHL talent the same way he did fans early in his career.
Early in Hertl’s rookie season, he scored four goals against the New York Rangers, becoming the youngest to do so since Jimmy Carson in 1988. Between that and his off-ice personality, he established himself in Sharks folklore at a young age.
When he showed that offensive prowess again in St. Louis, it was an indication of greater things to come.
Last year, his overall performance did raise some fair concerns, but several other factors could benefit his offensive production in the future.
First and foremost, he will most likely be on the first line in the 2020-2021 season. Additional ice time alone should see an increase in his offensive production.
In addition to that, any post-injury regression we would have seen in a regular NHL calendar will not happen. Hertl getting extra rest has allowed him to return to 100% according to sources close to him.
Finally, during the 2018-2019 season, the Czech center was one of the strongest offensive weapons the Sharks had. In 77 games, he had 74 points and was one of the most consistent game-to-game options.
During the post-season, Hertl maintained his consistency with 15 points through 19 games.
He is capable of being great, the talent is there, and he knows it too. He is easily one of the most confident guys on the team. So confident that he called series on live television following a game 5 victory against Vegas.
To soften the blow of a potential series loss, fellow teammates tried to dismiss the comments citing that he struggled from a language gap.
He backed up his talk in game 6, hitting a shorthanded overtime game-winner on the road. As all Team Teal fans know, afterward the team would complete the 3-1 comeback in a memorable series.
But the overarching point is that Hertl made good on his word, he predicted the impossible, and it happened. He feels good about what he can bring to the team and be an elite player, and he will make good on his word.