When Tomas Hertl was four years old, Joe Thornton made his NHL debut.
Now, they’re linemates.
That’s one of the big stories as San Jose opens the 2013-14 campaign against Vancouver on Thursday, as Hertl will skate on a line with Thornton and defenseman-turned-forward Brent Burns.
“Tomas being my linemate, it’s been a lot of fun,” Thornton told CSN Bay Area. “Me and Burnzie have been smiling a lot, just enjoying his company out there. I think with getting some young guys in here, it adds a little bit more enthusiasm in the room.”
Hertl is only 19 years old, but hardly a kid. He’s got good size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and has spent the past two seasons playing against men in the Czech Extraliga, scoring 30 points in 43 games for HC Slavia Praha last year.
The 17th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Hertl is looking to make an impact after starring in the preseason. He scored 3G-1A in four games and will have a chance to fill the void at forward after Raffi Torres was lost for 3-4 months following ACL surgery.
“I think that’s what you’re going to see with Tomas this year, each week he’s going to get better and better,” Thornton explained. “Every week he’s been here he’s gotten better, and it’s a good sign.”