x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

San Jose’s rookie Tomas Hertl looks a big fish

In only his third regular-season NHL game, Tomas Hertl scored four goals in a 9-2 rout of the New York Rangers, his last coming on a trick shot from between his legs that viewers had to watch via slow-motion replay to understand what they had witnessed.

San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl raised some eyebrows around the league after his circus shot against the New York Rangers. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo
San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl raised some eyebrows around the league after his circus shot against the New York Rangers. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

It did not take long for the San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl to make a splash in the NHL.

Neither did it take long for the teenage forward from the Czech Republic to draw grumpy complaints from the old guard for his flashy style.

In his third game, Hertl, 19, scored four goals in a 9-2 rout of the New York Rangers. His last score came on a trick shot from between his legs that viewers had to watch via slow-motion replay to understand what they had witnessed.

As he swooped in front of the net from the left side, Hertl skated over the puck, put his stick through his legs and flipped the puck over the left shoulder of the goalie Martin Biron.

“That was very, very special,” said teammate Joe Thornton of the goal that had the league buzzing. “As teammates, it’s fun to watch him put pucks in the back of the net.”

Fun for them, but not everyone was applauding.

On the other side of the continent, the Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked about Hertl’s spectacular move that put the Sharks ahead 8-2.

“Don’t disrespect the league,” Oates told the Washington Post.

“I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”

Huh?

The television analyst Barry Melrose said he admired the shot, but added that in years past, Hertl would have become a target for showing off his skills in a lopsided game.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the league reacts to Hertl’s verve.

He is clearly enjoying his early days in the NHL, smiling broadly and unabashedly celebrating each goal.

He may naturally tone down some of his enthusiasm, but in the meantime, he has jumped to the top of the scoring list with six goals and an assist in four games.

He also has sparked the Sharks, who finished sixth in the Western Conference standings last year and were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round, to a 4-0 start.

Hertl was taken 17th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft.

He is not the only young Sharks player who has given the team an early boost.

Matthew Nieto, 20, a second-round pick in 2011 and a native of Southern California, has added a goal and two assists.

But it is Hertl who has become the first lightning-rod story of the season, perhaps simply by acting his age, and not being shy with his skills.

“Our game needs a little bit of that,” his coach Todd McLellan said, when asked about Hertl’s sleight-of-hand goal. “It’s that innocence.

“He’s playing free.”

Even if some would like to see him pay.

sports@thenational.ae