SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tomas Hertl spent the first day of training camp on Friday centering his own line.
Part of that was due to the absence of so many players still competing in the World Cup of Hockey, or flying home today. But part of that, according to head coach Pete DeBoer, is because of Hertl’s versatility and size.
“I like the fact that he can play center,” DeBoer said, “I want to keep him active at the center position.”
“It’s very hard to find six-foot-two, three, 220-pound centers. Everyone’s looking for them.”
Hertl was drafted as a center and has played on Joe Thornton’s wing in parts of his first three seasons, including down the stretch last season, and told reporters he was ready to play either position.
He missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup Final, and playing at the World Cup for the Czech Republic with a knee injury, but said he’s recovered.
“I’m ready,” Hertl said. “I’m ready to go, really. Nothing [the] last 2-3 weeks, nothing bothered me. I can turn. I can play, hit, do whatever.”
Unclear when Donskoi, Pavelski will re-join team
Speaking of Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi, DeBoer said the pair is flying back to San Jose from Toronto today. But, DeBoer doesn’t know exactly when the pair will begin camp.
“I’ll sit with them when they get back and see how they feel and give them the appropriate time,” DeBoer said. “For me, it’s not about getting them on the ice right tomorrow, it’s about getting them rested and ready to go.”
In addition to giving the Sharks a chance to look at their young players, Doug Wilson said the World Cup experience will benefit the Sharks’ participants, even if they are missing part of training camp.
“I think the veteran guys that are in the World Cup are getting a great experience,” Wilson said. “[They’re] playing playoff-level type hockey, and when they come back we’ll get them some rest.”
Backup goalie competition remains open
The backup goalie spot behind Martin Jones remains open, and the Sharks will first look at their internal options, according to general manager Doug Wilson.
“I think we’ve got some guys that have earned the right,” Wilson said. “They’re at the age to be able to compete.”
In camp, those options are Aaron Dell, Troy Grosenick, who played with the Barracuda last season, and Mantas Armalis, a goalie the Sharks signed as a free agent in April. That may not remain the case as camp continues, however. Wilson said the Sharks will explore bringing in another goalie, if needed.
“I think there’s seven or eight teams who’ll have three goalies going into camp that could come available,” Wilson said.
“Like anything else, if we need to acquire somebody, we will. But we want to give our own guys that chance.”
DeBoer said he was familiar with Troy Grosenick and Aaron Dell from their brief time with the big club last season, but is still getting to know Mantas Armalis. He added that it’s important for the team to enter the season with stability behind Martin Jones.
“I don’t think there’s any accident that we got Reimer last year allowed us to rest him a little bit, and he was fresh in the playoffs,” DeBoer said.
“Whoever we have here is going to have to play.”
DeBoer offers thoughts on anthem protests
DeBoer was asked if he expected to see NHL players protest the national anthem, as has taken place in the NFL and other sports as other athletes follow the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I don’t know,” DeBoer said. “I went to law school, so freedom of speech is one of the things they teach you on the first day. So, whether or not it would have been my choice to express myself that way, there’s nothing more important than the freedom to express yourself and that’s what this country is built on.”
He did not say what he would do if one of his players chose to join in the protest, but reiterated how important freedom of expression is to him.
“For me, nothing is more important than that. There’s all kinds of different ways to do it, but you can’t give someone the freedom and then tell them when or how they can do it. It doesn’t make sense. That’s everyone’s personal choice.”
Quote of the Day
Joel Ward, on linemate Tomas Hertl:
Tomas has been great. He’s a big-body guy that’s just got a big...big legs, big ass. He’s a big dude, just a big slab of beef. Good hockey player.