When Tomas Hertl showed up last season for the San Jose Sharks, he was a breath of fresh air.
His youthful exuberance and ability to score highlight-reel goals gave the already potent Sharks offense another weapon. A knee injury at the hands (read: knees) of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown cut his season short, but with 15 goals in 37 games he provided the kind of impact that helps a team feel good about the future.
The Sharks had enough confidence in Hertl’s game to buy out Martin Havlat, move Brent Burns back to defense from forward, and to not really sign anyone to replace either of them up front. While Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture help make up an offensively frightening top-six with the forwards, it’s Hertl who figures to be the key.
Sound crazy? Not so much.
Hertl, while he was in the lineup, spent most of his time on a line with Thornton and Burns and was a dominant possession player (only Thornton and Pavelski were better amongst forwards). Keeping the puck and scoring a bunch of goals makes him invaluable.
With Burns now back on the blue line, Sharks coach Todd McLellan could create a Corsi nightmare for opponents by assembling a top line with Hertl, Thornton, and Pavelski together. Regardless of whether that happens or not, it’s Hertl that makes things happen for Thornton the set-up man.
With the Sharks offensive options thin outside of the top-six, having Hertl recreate what he did last season is vital for balance between the top two lines. If the goals evaporate, opponents will load up against Couture and Marleau’s line. Giving other teams fits defensively is what’s made the Sharks so good in the past and having Hertl pick up where he left off will only help that out further.