Drafted 17th overall in the 2012 Entry Draft, Tomas Hertl has been quick to exceed expectations and establish himself at the NHL level. The 20-year-old forward spent the last two years playing for Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic before making his way overseas to join the San Jose Sharks this past offseason. Hertl’s combination of size, skill and intelligence helped him pot 18 goals in 43 games in the Czech league last year, solidifying him as an offensive force. He added 12 assists to bring his point total to 30, all at the age of 18.
Fortunately for the Sharks, Hertl’s past success has carried over to the NHL. The Praha native has 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points in just 35 matches. He also boasts an impressive plus/minus rating of +11 and has tallied three power-play goals. Hertl has managed to make an immediate transition to North American hockey without missing a beat. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that his stellar rookie campaign might be over. Hertl hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury in a game against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 19, courtesy of a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown. There’s a chance he’ll be ready to return to action by the time the playoffs begin, but that remains uncertain at this point.
Hertl’s injury put a damper on what could have been a season worthy of Rookie of the Year honors. At the time of the collision, he was the clear favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Even after missing two full months of play, Hertl is still ranked fourth among all first-year players in goals. He’s just two tallies behind Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson for second place.
Maybe Hertl can make a quick recovery and return to San Jose’s lineup in time to make a push for first place in rookie scoring. It’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Regardless, the young forward was one of the club’s best players when he was healthy and he should be proud of what he accomplished in his first season in the NHL.
If Hertl is good to go for the playoffs, the Sharks will boast a terrifyingly dangerous offense capable of doing some serious damage. The rookie sensation gets an easy “A” on his report card.