Over the course of August, THW’s daily Sharks reporter Andrew Bensch will be previewing and predicting the season ahead for each San Jose player. Thus far the series has previewed Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Joel Ward, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. Today’s column takes a look at Tomas Hertl.
2014-15 Player Card Stats:
2014-15 Advanced Stats:
Goals-for percentage: 48.7
Corsi-for percentage: 54.2
Hertl suffered the ever common sophomore slump in 2014-15. That said, there are many reasons to believe the Czech native will return to dominating the highlights in 2015-16. Hertl broke onto the scene as a rookie in 2013-14 with 15 goals and 25 points in just 37 games. Unfortunately for Hertl, an “accidental” knee-on-knee hit courtesy of Dustin Brown caused the rookie sensation to miss four months with a torn MCL and PCL. While Hertl would return for the playoffs and perform well, he suffered a set back during last offseason’s rehab. Hertl managed to play all 82 games in his second season but he did not resemble the same explosive skater that we saw in his first campaign. Knee injuries can take a long time to fully heal and the 21-year old clearly wasn’t the same player.
Despite not showing the same jump to his game, playing all 82 games is a big positive for Hertl moving forward. Having gone through a full 82 game schedule will help him understand first hand how to balance his need for conditioning and rest throughout the long campaign. Another positive sign for Hertl is that he got better as the year went along. Hertl played on all sorts of different lines throughout the season, and still managed the fourth best Corsi-for percentage on the team. In fact, Hertl ended up passing San Jose’s analytics darling Matt Nieto in possession by the end of the season. Nieto was was one of the top Corsi-for players in the league through December but Hertl finished the season with a better percentage. Possession numbers are a strong indicator of future success and Hertl’s ability to control 54% of the shots despite an overall down year is an impressive sign for things to come.
2015-16 Player Card Stats:
2015-16 Advanced Stats:
Goals-for percentage: 54.5
Corsi-for percentage: 55.3
You read that correctly, Hertl will nearly double his out put from his sophomore season. Hertl’s points per game rate will jump back to that of his rookie year production but this time over a full season. Hertl is not yet in his prime years, but he is on the cusp of the 23-26 prime for most first-round forwards. Contrary to popular belief, highly talented forwards are starting to see peak production come in their early-to-mid 20’s. Hertl is only going to get better the next few seasons and 2015-16 will be the start of his ascension.
There is a good chance Hertl starts the season on the right wing of the Marleau and Couture line. While the latter two had disappointing seasons defensively last year, this trio together looked good in a short sample at the end of last year. These three combine for a high level of skill, and they can all put the puck in the back of the net. If slightly sheltered away from tough defensive minutes, this line could put up big numbers. Top shut-down minutes are likely to go to the Thornton, Ward, Pavelski line. Plus it is feasible the Chris Tierney centered third line could see some checking duty as well. Therefore, DeBoer could let Marleau, Couture and Hertl feast in offensively tilted minutes. The Sharks blue line behind them will also be much stronger. With likely top pair Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun taking the toughest minutes, a line of Marleau, Couture and Hertl could end up being frequently paired with the projected second pair of Brent Burns and Paul Martin. Hertl is going to bank a lot of points if he gets his skating legs back under him and spends significant time with Marleau, Couture and Burns out on the ice next to him.