Hertl's Fertile: Czech Creativity Produces NHL's First Goal-of-the-Year Candidate
Many elite hockey players are capable of showtime dangling.
Virtually all of them reserve these creative stickhandling displays of dexterity for practice. There's so much that can go wrong with them that daring to make such high degree-of-difficulty moves in a game could jeopardize its outcome, which is a surefire way to earn the scorn of teammates.
But, blend a blowout with a 19-year-old scoring sensation, and conventional wisdom can go out the window.
Or, more to the point, into the net.
This is how the Czech Republic's Tomáš Hertl introduced himself to the NHL in general and the New York Rangers in particular:
Even more notably, Hertl talled three other goals -- in much more conventional fashion -- to highlight the Sharks' 9-2 drubbing of the Rangers.
His NHL career is only three games old, and already his offensive production stands at six goals and seven points. He is now the youngest player in the last 25 years to score four goals in a game. And it only took him 11 minutes to do it.
It's not so rare anymore that a teenager breaks into the big time in any sport, and as the Sharks are well aware, it remains to be seen what the effects of a long season can do to rookies. The Czechs' top league is high caliber, but it's neither as physical or as long as the NHL.
As one would expect, Hertl is no secret to the hockey world. The 17th player selected in 2012, the young center has been a mainstay on the Czech international squads from U18 onward, and was the fourth-leading scorer for Slavia Prague in the Czech Extraliga with 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games.
He's already earned his spot on the Sharks top line, flanked by Joe Thornton and Brett Burns. And after only three games in the new season, Hertl has definitely earned his way into the hearts of Sharks fans.