Sharks' new center gets attention
18-year-old from Czech Republic seen as foundation for team's future
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 9:13 p.m.
SAN JOSE — No blockbuster draft-night trade for the Sharks this year, who completed this draft on Saturday.
Instead, general manager Doug Wilson used the 17th pick in the first round of the NHL draft Friday to select Tomas Hertl, an 18-year-old center from the Czech Republic who became San Jose's first opening-round pick from Europe since 2004.
On Saturday, the Sharks had five selections in rounds two through seven, and drafted three forwards and two defenders.
Hertl, a 6-foot-2, 198-pound left-handed shot, drew the attention of scouts at the World Junior Championships last winter as the leading Czech scorer with three goals and two assists in six games.
“His upside potential is to be that centerman that you can use in all situations,” Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke said. “He will defend, he makes plays, he has a long reach, he strips pucks, he's able to play in low tight areas — there's a lot of good qualities to his game.”
Hertl scored 12 goals and 25 points in 38 games last season with Praha Slavia, a team in the Czech Republic's top league where he was coached by former NHL forward Vladimir “Rosie” Ruzicka.
Through a translator, Hertl told CSNCalifornia.com that the Sharks have long been a favorite team of his and that he likes the fact fellow Czech Marty Havlat is on the roster.
Asked to assess his game, Hertl said that “my strengths are working with the puck, around the net, passes, shots. I need to work on skating and strength and English.”
His speed is one aspect of his game criticized by some scouts. But a report by TSN, a Canadian sports network, noted that Hertl “has good quickness and agility and when combined with his very good sense, he's able to play at the higher and quicker pace necessary.”
Burke dismissed the concerns, citing similar comments about Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture when they were drafted.
“They questioned Pavelski's speed and Logan's, too, so I'm not worried about that,” Burke said.
A year ago, the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild engineered a major trade on draft day that brought Brent Burns and a second-round pick to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, prospect Charlie Coyle and a first-round pick.
This year, Wilson said, there were the usual conversations. But while the Sharks came close to trading down in the first round, they held their position when they saw Hertl was available.
Wilson had talked earlier in the week about a shortage of wingers among the team's prospects, and one scouting report said Hertl had the potential to be a power forward as a wing.
That factor worked in Hertl's favor, the general manager said.
“He's a big body that can play all forward positions, which is obviously something we like,” Wilson said.
Teuvo Teravainen of Finland, a left wing rated higher than Hertl by most scouting systems, was taken by the Chicago Blackhawks immediately after San Jose's pick. Wilson said the Sharks liked Teravainen, but he lacked the size and versatility that Hertl brings.
First-round draft picks from Europe were not uncommon in the early years of the franchise when players such as Viktor Kozlov were taken in 1993 and Andrei Zyuzin in 1996. But Hertl is the first since Milan Michalek was taken in 2003 and Lukas Kaspar the following year.
Burke didn't attach any significance to Hertl's background but credited San Jose's European scouts with making a strong case for him.
“It was the support we had from our guys there,” Burke said. “We went in to see him, and they weren't backing off.”
FORWARD-THINKING IN DRAFT'S LATER ROUNDS
The Sharks added to their supply of forward prospects with their first three picks in the second day of the NHL draft in Pittsburgh on Saturday, then turned to defensemen with their final two choices.
San Jose took Chris Tierney, a center with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in the second round with the 55th overall pick, then sent two later picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fourth-round choice.
With the 109th overall pick from Chicago, the Sharks took Christophe Lalancette, a 6-foot, 178 pound right wing from Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League.
The Sharks then used the 138th pick to select Daniel O'Regan, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound center who played high school hockey at St. Sebastian's and will play at Boston University in the fall.
General manager Doug Wilson did take a defenseman in the 6th round, selecting Cliff Watson, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound blueliner with Sioux City of the USHL with the 168th overall pick, then made 5-foot-10, 182-pound defenseman Joakim Ryan of Cornell this year's final selection in the 7th round at 198th.
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