Why Tomas Hertl won't forget playing with Joe Thornton, Brent Burns

Why Tomas Hertl won't forget playing with Joe Thornton, Brent Burns

Tomas Hertl’s memorable start to his NHL career came alongside a former Hart Trophy winner and a future Norris Trophy winner.

The Czech forward’s first Sharks linemates were Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, who then-San Jose coach Todd McLellan moved up from defense during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Hertl scored seven goals in his first five games, including a historic four-goal performance in his third.

Playing with Thornton and Burns allowed Hertl to debut in unforgettable fashion.

"Actually, it was the best line you could imagine: It was [Burnzie] and [Jumbo],” Hertl told ESPN’s Greg Wyshnski in a piece about past and present NHL players’ first linemates. “So it was actually a really big line, really fun line, because we were all over 6-[foot-]2 and 220, so it was a big and fun line. [Burnzie] was still playing forward.

“For me, or like anybody who started with Jumbo in his prime, it was really fun. Both these guys helped me a lot during my NHL career.”

The trio found instant chemistry during the 2013-14 season. Burns, Hertl and Thornton simply dominated opponents at even strength in just under 218 minutes together. They controlled, according to Natural Stat Trick:

  • 62.82 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts
  • 67.78 percent of the 5-on-5 expected goals
  • 70.33 percent of the 5-on-5 scoring chances
  • 73.75 percent of the 5-on-5 high-danger chances

Their time together was largely short-lived. Hertl underwent right knee surgery just 37 games into his NHL career, while Burns missed about a month early that season. McLellan didn’t immediately reunite the group when Hertl was healthy, instead keeping Joe Pavelski with Thornton and Burns.

Hertl, Burns and Thornton briefly reunited during the Sharks’ first-round Stanley Cup playoffs loss to the rival Los Angeles Kings, but the line didn’t score a 5-on-5 goal in that series as San Jose blew a three-games-to-none lead. They still generated a high share of quality chances, yet goals did not follow and the three never really got another look together upfront.

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Burns moved back to the blue line the following season, and it paid off with a Norris win in 2017 and two other top-three finishes in 2016 (third) and 2019 (second). Hertl and Thornton have played with a number of different linemates, including each other, since then.

It’s hard to envision a true reunion on a line whenever the NHL resumes play following the coronavirus pandemic, considering Burns’ position change and Thornton’s now playing in a bottom-six role. The chemistry they found with Hertl in his rookie season was special, though, and something that clearly has stuck with him ever since.

Sharks' Evander Kane announces daughter's birth after 'tough journey'


Sharks' Evander Kane announces daughter's birth after 'tough journey'

Just over a year after losing their daughter during pregnancy, Sharks forward Evander Kane and his wife, Anna, welcomed another daughter into the world.

The Kanes announced the birth of their daughter, Kensington Ava, on Thursday on social media. Evander Kane said his daughter was born on July 3. 

"My wife Anna is a rockstar, the strength and love she has displayed over the last 18 months," Kane wrote on Twitter. "We want to thank everyone who has reached out during this period in support of our family and (we) appreciate the kind words throughout this journey. I'm so proud of my daughter, it's tough to put into words how much she means to me."

Kane thanked the Sharks, their fans, his friends and family "for their overwhelming love" during a difficult time. Last March, Kane announced that their daughter, Eva, passed away 26 weeks into Anna's pregnancy.

"You gave us all, especially your mom and I, something to be excited about," Kane wrote of Eva on Twitter on March 14, 2019. "And though we are devastated that you couldn't stay with us longer, your mom and I will always cherish the time we had with your beautiful soul. Your spirit will give us strength, your love will give us comfort. We will love you forever."

The Sharks, San Jose teammate Mario Ferraro and Hockey Diversity Alliance co-founder Akim Aliu all commented on Kane's Instagram post on Thursday.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl explains funny, simple reason why he wears No. 48

Sharks' Tomas Hertl explains funny, simple reason why he wears No. 48

Tomas Hertl has a huge year ahead of him. As he returns from ACL and MCL surgery, he and his wife Aneta are expecting the birth of their first child in November.

Sharks fans everywhere can't wait for No. 48 to get back on the ice. But how did he pick that number? It’s quite simple.

“They give it to me,” he wrote in a recent NHLPA questionnaire.

Enough said.

But before Hertl was the Sharks’ All-Star center, he had other aspirations.

Believe it or not, he wrote in the questionnaire that he wanted to be an architect if he wasn’t going to be a hockey player. But he was born to play hockey.

His dad, Jaroslav, during the winter in his native in Prague, would create nets (measuring the perfect size) on the frozen ponds near where he lived. Hertl’s dad would even kick off skaters if they were recreationally using the area where he wanted to play hockey.

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As much as Hertl could have thrived as an architect, his career as a hockey star was destined.