Young Tomas Hertl has already started making a name for himself in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, having just wrapped up his second season of play. There, he increased his scoring totals from 25 points in his rookie season to 31 this past season.
Currently one of the youngest players on the Czech Republic‘s national team, Hertl has been representing his country since he was 15 years old. On the eve of his team’s quarterfinal match against Canada (a game won by Canada, 2-0), Hertl talked a bit about having the 2015 IIHF World Championship at home, and life in the NHL.
Hockey’s Future: You’ve wrapped up the preliminary round and defeated Finland in the initial round of the playoffs right here in your nation’s capital. Up next are the Canadians. What are your thoughts on this hometown crowd and the tournament in your native country?
Tomas Hertl: I can’t say enough about it. It’s just great. It’s amazing. Every game has been so loud and it just completely energizes us players. 17,000 every night to see us. Simply incredible playing here.
HF: Your team is filled with established NHL and KHL players, including the likes of Jakub Voracek and Jaromir Jagr. How’s this two weeks been for you as pretty much the youngest player in this group?
TH: I really like it. I just spend time with all these Czech guys every day. They’re just great teammates. It’s just such an honor to be part of these world championships and represent my country at this high level. I love it whenever I get to play for my national team, but this tops it off when you’re doing it right in your own country.
HF: You just completed your second NHL season with the San Jose Sharks, making the show a lot quicker than many might have thought. How’s life for you out in California?
TH: Oh, it’s California life. Everybody loves it. There’s nice weather pretty much the entire year. You can pretty much wear flip flops all the time. I really love the fans out there. They really get behind us and make love special for us players. This can’t be looked over, because in California sports like baseball and football are really popular, so when every one of our games is sold out and you can count on that support every night, it’s just indescribable. I love playing for the San Jose Sharks.
HF: It was a bit of a disappointing season for San Jose. What feedback have you gotten from the organization in preparation for next season?
TH: It was a very tough season. The team had made the playoffs 11 years in a row and now we missed the playoffs. So we talked about what went right, what could go better, what needs to be improved. We analyzed things like if I’m more comfortable playing on the left, right, or in the middle. We want to optimize things. We also still have to see what will be going on with the coaching staff. So there’s much to decide for next year.
HF: What’s been the highlight of your young NHL career?
TH: Well, it’d have to be the night I scored four goals. It was an amazing night. Something like that rarely happens and what made it more amazing is that I had scored six goals in three games. But aside from that, this experience here right now is also a definite highlight. It’s not just the incredible fans and being in my home country, it’s also that all my family is here and I get to share this amazing event with them.
HF: What aspects of your game do you feel you still need to improve on the most?
TH: Everything. My play in the offensive zone, defensive zone, and I need to get stronger. I get a lot of chances and don’t score enough goals. So more shooting and making more of my offensive chances. I need to take that step to becoming an impact player.
HF: Up next is Canada. Thoughts on that star-studded opponent?
TH: They’ll be very tough. We know that. We played them already and did real well for about 40 minutes. Then they took over. We need to be ready and have a good start. We can’t get behind early. Canada has shown what it can do when they take those quick leads. We’ll of course be counting on the support of our amazing fans again. They alone can be the difference.
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