Tomas Hertl said he knows it will be difficult for the San Jose Sharks to overcome the departure of captain Joe Pavelski, but the 25-year-old forward said he's eager to take on more of a leadership role this season.
Pavelski had 761 points (355 goals, 406 assists) in 963 regular-season games and 100 points (48 goals, 52 assists) in 134 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 13 seasons with the Sharks. The 35-year-old signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars as an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"For sure, we'll miss him," Hertl said at the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago on Thursday. "[Pavelski] is a great guy. Right from [my] first year he helped me. Over the years, we got more close too. It's always tough to lose a friend and teammate. But especially for me, I want to now be the leader on the team. I want to step up."
Hertl scored an NHL career-high 35 goals in 77 games last season and led Sharks forwards with 74 points. He had 15 points (10 goals, five assists) in 19 playoff games, helping San Jose reach the Western Conference Final, which it lost to the St. Louis Blues.
Video: SJS@STL, Gm4: Hertl buries loose puck for PPG
"Even in the locker room off the ice, if we're losing, if we're not doing great, [Pavelski] was always talking," Hertl said. "Now it has to be me, [forward Logan Couture] and these guys. I'm going to be the guy and even help the young kids coming. I want to be the guy that shows them around and talk to them. If they're not doing good, I was there myself, and [Pavelski would] come to me. We have to step up and be better for our team and for the young guys."
Hertl is excited that center Joe Thornton, who turned 40 on July 2, will return to San Jose for another season. Thornton had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 games last season.
"I think he will be there," Hertl said prior to Thornton agreeing to a one-year contract on Friday. "I was the last couple of the days in San Jose and I saw him hard at work. He's getting ready for the season. I think he'll be back and ready for another season.
"I started with him, and over the last six years, I was learning from him. He was great to me all six years. For sure, for young guys it's great motivation to see him and how hard he works every day."
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report