SAN JOSE -- Unlike most NHL teams, the Sharks prefer to hold each summer's prospect development camp with doors locked and curtains drawn. That, the team has explained, lets young players focus on learning the system and training techniques without the judgmental distractions of fans or outside media.

But Thursday night, those curtains parted. For the first time, the Sharks held a prospects scrimmage in public, giving about 700 hardcore followers who filled the north rink at Sharks Ice a glimpse of what the future may hold.

And for at least one player, that future could begin as early as October.

Of the 45 prospects, Tomas Hertl is considered the one most likely to be on the roster when the Sharks open the 2013-14 season. Though he still has to earn a spot in training camp, general manager Doug Wilson came closer than usual to saying as much in the days before the June 30 draft.

"We don't over-promote players, but he's potentially a pretty special player," said Wilson, who added that Hertl has the skill set to fit in on one of the team's top three lines.

Hertl, still only 19, was San Jose's first-round pick and the 17th player taken overall in the 2012 draft. After he scored 18 goals and 30 points in 43 games in the elite men's league in his native Czech Republic, he signed a three-year entry level contract that could pay him $1.325 million annually if bonus criteria are met.

His smile tells you he is enjoying himself here, but Hertl's English is very limited. To help overcome that obstacle and make the transition easier, Hertl will live with a San Jose family when he returns for training camp in September. They haven't met each other yet, but that will happen Saturday.

Ask Hertl about his performance this week or hopes for reaching the NHL this fall and you get one or two word answers. But in June, when he signed his contract, he told reporters in Prague that he felt he was ready for the NHL.

"To play in the NHL is a dream of every young hockey player," Hertl was quoted by nhl.com. "I am very glad that my dream to sign with the Sharks has come through. Mentally, I am ready to take that challenge."

Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke said Hertl has taken steps in that direction this week, showing greater leg strength and the ability to adapt to North American rinks after playing on the larger ice surfaces in Europe.

"From last year to this year, he's definitely getting closer. It's never that predictable, but he's in the mix," said Burke, stopping short of saying Hertl is ready. "You don't want to put out those kind of expectations."

Whatever the expectations, Thursday night Hertl was just another prospect looking to impress the Sharks brass.

He earned an assist on linemate Petter Emanuelsson's goal, but came up short on a breakaway as their team with Shark development coach Mike Ricci behind the bench lost 4-3 in overtime to a team coached by scout Bryan Marchment. Daniil Tarasov scored twice for Marchment's team, including the winner, while Rylan Schwartz and Kyle Bigos added one goal each. Matt Nieto notched two goals for Ricci's team in the losing cause.

  • Hertl isn't the only recent Sharks first-round pick in development camp this week.

    Defenseman Mirco Mueller, the 18th player taken overall in the 2013 draft on June 30, got his first taste of the NHL experience and indicated he came away impressed with everything from the coaching staff to the training facility.

    Camp competition, he added, was at a high level.

    "It makes yourself better if you have to keep up," said Mueller, 18, a native of Switzerland with a strong command of English. "We've learned a lot. There's different players and different ages. They've played in different leagues. I know I want to ask them things and it's a really exciting time for me."

    Plans call for Mueller to return to Everett, Wash., of the WHL, where he'll be playing for onetime Sharks coach Kevin Constantine. The two haven't met yet as Constantine is returning to Everett for a second coaching stint.

    Before he gets back to the WHL, Mueller expects to be returning to San Jose for training camp in September.

    "First time practicing with the big guys, with the stars," he said. "It'd be a great thing for me."

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.