Over the past week, the SB Nation network of hockey blogs has been conducting a mock draft ahead of the real thing in Pittsburgh next Friday. With the Sharks on the clock at 17th overall and Doug Wilson busy getting a spraytan, it's fallen upon us here at Fear The Fin to make the first round pick on behalf of the franchise. We've selected, from HC Slavia Praha of the Czech Extraliga, center Tomas Hertl.
We would have preferred to pick either of the two Swedish wingers Sebastian Collberg or Pontus Aberg but seeing as the Senators and Capitals selected the 'bergs with the picks right before this one (the bastards), we'll feign excitement about adding Hertl to the organization. In all seriousness, Hertl is a terrific young center with size and a scoring touch who tallied 25 points in 38 games playing against men in the Czech Republic's top league during the 11-12 season. Using Gabe Desjardins' NHL equivalencies, Hertl's offensive numbers this past season translate to a higher points per game rate at the NHL level than any other projected first round pick apart from assured No. 1 overall Nail Yakupov. On Derek Zona's final top 100 consensus list, which weighs the opinions of several draft experts, Hertl ranked 22nd overall and 6th among European skaters. Scout extraordinaire Corey Pronman has this to say about Hertl's game:
Hertl is a gifted puck-handler who is above-average to plus in that area with good creativity and hand-eye coordination. He has a nice frame and is pretty hard to strip the puck from in the cycle game due to his hands and puck protection abilities. Hertl's physical game is pretty solid all-around as he is strong, with a good sized frame, will go to the net, and doesn't mind getting a little chippy. He thinks the game at an above-average level as he's a gifted playmaker who is instinctual with his vision, and his off-the-puck instincts. He's also a pretty sound defensive forward. Hertl certainly needs work on his skating as he's below average on a good day, but that part of his game usually looks replacement level—especially his first few steps—although his standstill agility and balance are solid. If he cleans up his skating, his raw possession skills are first-line worthy, so if his development goes well, he could be a nice value pick.
The Scouting Report largely seems to agree with Pronman's assessment although they aren't quite as down on Hertl's skating ability:
Hertl is an interesting prospect who has good size and some solid offensive upside. He’s an unconventional skater with a bit of an awkward stride, but Hertl still has solid speed and agility. He forechecks well and does a good job of understanding his responsibilities in all 3 zones and is pretty complete at this age. Offensively, he has the potential to be a 20/20 type player consistently in the NHL and possibly more during his prime seasons while being an effective two-way player.
Although Hertl's skating issues raise some concerns, his reported creativity and effectiveness at the possession game as well as his impressive offensive numbers this past season in the Czech Republic cemented Hertl as a better pick in my mind than Brendan Gaunce, who I also heavily considered. Although if I had to bet on it, I think the latter is a more likely pick by the Sharks in this spot. Here's Hertl showing off his sweet hands scoring a goal against Team USA at the World Junior Championships this past winter:
And, finally, here are Hertl's career statistics: