SAN JOSE -- The biggest challenge on the ice for Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl has been how fast things happen in the NHL.
"Everything is much quicker. I give a pass to somebody and then suddenly I get hit," the 19-year-old Czech Republic native said Monday through interpreter Roman Jedlicka. "In the Czech league, I have much more time for everything."
Still, in two games, Hertl has done enough to generate Calder Trophy talk as a potential rookie of the year and has left a first impression that San Jose made good use of its first-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Playing on a top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, Hertl has not looked out of place. His two goals tie Patrick Marleau for tops on the Sharks, his three points give him a share of the scoring lead with Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. And at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, the perpetually smiling Hertl has shown he can dish out hits as well as absorb them.
Off the ice, the challenges seem more problematic.
His English is limited, and that has kept previous attempts to talk with him brief. But during an exclusive interview Monday, Hertl talked at length through Jedlicka, an announcer with TV NOVA sport in the Czech Republic, about his path from Prague to San Jose.
Life might not be as easy as it looks for a teenager who could earn more than $1 million each of the next three years.
Take wheels, for example. San Jose is not an easy city to get around in without a car. Yet Hertl is without one.
"I don't have a car, and I can't rent one because I am not 21 years old. I don't know if I can buy a car, because I am still fighting for my spot," Hertl said.
Still, he is resourceful, bumming a ride to practices at Sharks Ice with goalie Alex Stalock, as both live in the same downtown hotel.
The Sharks like what they have seen from Hertl so far, but coach Todd McLellan stresses it is a long season.
"We have 80 games left," the coach noted. "He's never played 80 games in a season."
Adjustments already have had to be made because of that language barrier.
During Saturday night's 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, McLellan had to burn his timeout during a power play to explain how he wanted Hertl to handle a faceoff in the Sharks zone.
Hertl made the leap to the Sharks after two seasons in the top Czech men's league.
There, comparisons had been made to Jaromir Jagr, whose 1,688 points in the NHL top all Czech players.
One website even staged a photo shoot with Hertl and his girlfriend in an identical pose as Jagr and his girlfriend when the now 41-year-old forward was about the same age.
Hertl knows that comparison isn't legitimate -- "It's a long way for me to be like Jaromir Jagr. He is a Czech hockey legend."
But Hertl does acknowledge he has patterned one aspect of his game after the player who was his childhood hero.
"Both of us have big bottoms, and I just try to use my big bottom as Jagr does," said Hertl, referring to Jagr's ability to both protect the puck and hold off defenders with his derrière.
Hertl wore No. 90 in the Czech league. He didn't pick a No. 48 jersey with the Sharks; it was simply handed to him. He thought about asking for a new number at some point, then changed his mind.
"If I am successful with 48, I don't have reason to change it," Hertl said. "It's not important what number is on my jersey. For me, what's important is I have the jersey on myself."