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Chiasson, Hertl remain focused on bigger picture

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- The game Thursday between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars features two of the NHL's top rookies this season in Sharks left wing Tomas Hertl, who leads the League with seven goals, and Dallas right wing Alex Chiasson, who is tied for second on the Stars with five points.

Each of these young skaters is pleased with his early success but is trying to take that in stride and remain focused on the bigger picture -- helping his team win games.

"I feel it's very good and I'm very happy with this year and that the team has done very well," the 19-year-old Hertl said.

He tied a franchise record with four goals in a game against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8, and became the fourth-youngest player in NHL history to score four in a game.

And even though Hertl, the 17th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, admitted he wasn't familiar with what Chiasson has done for Dallas thus far, Chiasson said he's well-aware of how strong Hertl has been for the Sharks thus far.

"It's great. He's been off to a good start. It's awesome to see a kid coming in the League and scoring four goals and doing well," Chiasson said. "I haven't really thought about playing him much. It's early in the season. We have a big game to play and we've got to get out of this with a win. I really want to focus on my game, the way I got to play and how the team's doing."

Hertl said he credits much of his early success to his spot on San Jose's top line, where he skates alongside San Jose captain Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. He feels that despite being together as a group for a relatively short time, they already have learned to play well off one another.

"It's very good skating with [Thornton]," Hertl said. "I'm very happy to be on the line with [Thornton] and Burns. We have a very good line. They have helped me a lot."

Chiasson has spent this season on the Stars' second line playing alongside Ray Whitney and Cody Eakin.

"He seems to know where to go," veteran center Shawn Horcoff said of Chiasson. "He's got good hands on net. He doesn't need a lot of chances to score. A lot of that has to do with being a smart player and knowing exactly where to be. He's a big body, good shot. He's got a lot of really good tools. I didn't know much about him coming in, but obviously now with the chance to play with him for a while, he's a really, really good, solid player."

Both coaches clearly have nothing but good things to say about their young stars in the making. However, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said there is something about Hertl that has surprised him thus far.

"This is going to sound strange, [but it's] really his innocence," McLellan said. "He's come in and he hasn't fallen prey to, the NHL is supposed to be this, or training camp's that. He just comes in and plays. It's perhaps been a real positive thing for him. Then his size and strength, his ability to play with the puck, instincts are very good, and of course he's got two very good linemates that have helped him and are willing to play the type of game that makes Tomas successful."

Stars coach Lindy Ruff speaks in equally glowing terms about Chiasson and what he has meant to the club thus far.

"He's a very smart player," Ruff said. "He's heady and he's got this great knack for being around the net. He knows how to score. I'd like to describe that, but he's one of those guys that just knows how to get it done. If you could coach it we'd probably have 12 guys on every team that would be scoring like that. But he's got that great natural gift around the net."

And while this is Hertl's first swim through the NHL, Chiasson, who has nine goals and 12 points in his first 12 NHL games and is the first player since Teemu Selanne in the 1992-93 season to record nine or more goals in his first 10 NHL games, got a taste of the League late last season when he had seven points in the Stars’ final seven games.

He feels that cameo appearance in Dallas last season helped prepare him for what an entire season in the NHL would be like.

"I think it made it a lot easier for me in training camp," Chiasson said. "I'd played here for a bit and I knew most of the guys pretty well. What I did last year didn't give me a spot on the team this year. It was a big training camp, a big month for me to prove that I belong here and I can play. The fact that I knew the players definitely helped me out and just made me feel a little more comfortable."

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