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Preview/Lines #38: Raska on Hertl’s Advice, NHL Debut

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

When Adam Raska found out that he was making his NHL debut, naturally, he turned to countryman Tomas Hertl for advice.

“When I realized I’m really playing tonight, he looked at me and he was like don’t be nervous and enjoy it. I tried but I got some butterflies in my belly, so I was really nervous. He still talked to me like, just don’t be nervous, just enjoy it,” Raska recounted the next day. “This game will be just one in your life.”

It’s not everyday that a seventh-round pick makes the NHL just a year removed from his Draft year. But that’s the case with the 2020 selection, who’s also the first Shark from his draft class to make the bigs.

Raska is here because of his simple-but-direct physical style of play.

“He’s gonna inject instant energy and passion,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said when Raska was called up on Jan. 5.

San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer complimented Raska for consistency in that area, as told to the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast recently.

Raska played just 6:24 but supplied three hits and drew a penalty, taking one for the team in the process.

“I was going to the bench to sit down and the doctor just grabbed me and said you’re bleeding,” Raska said of the aftermath of the Marc Staal hit that got a call. “I was just bleeding from the eye. They just put some tape on it and I was back in the game. I was happy to draw a penalty for us. It was not a big deal.

“If you give hits, you gotta take some.”

That’s Adam Raska, who’s shaping up to be the epitome of a team player in the years to come for the San Jose Sharks. And not surprisingly, the 20-year-old came from a pretty good team himself.

“Whole family!” Raska beamed, when asked who was watching from his native Czechia. “Yeah, my mom, cousins, uncles, aunts. Even my youngest cousin, he’s eight, he called me the next morning.

“And he told me you played pretty good. I felt really good.”

Raska also credited another team for his quick, surprising rise to the NHL. When he was 13, he joined HC Ocelari Trinec’s U16 team. The parent squad is considered perhaps Czech Extraliga’s premier organization.

“The guys when I first moved out from my parents, the first two years, we were living in a hotel and one floor had like 20 hockey players. They were older than me. They just took care of me,” Raska recalled. “I learned a lot of things, like how to cook. They taught me how to use money and what food [to eat] and stuff like that. The most important [time for my development] was the first one, two years when I moved out from my parents.”

Will Adam Raska play tonight? Alexander Barabanov is out because of COVID, but Rudolfs Balcers will return, and perhaps Nick Bonino too.

But to paraphrase Hertl, Tuesday’s game should be the first of many for Raska.

“It was an incredible moment, first NHL game. I was dreaming about that since I was young,” Raska said. “And now it comes true. Something amazing.”

San Jose Sharks (20-16-1)

Balcers should slide in for Barabanov with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, but who will Bonino displace? Bonino is likely to reunite with Matt Nieto and Andrew Cogliano on the third line, so does Jasper Weatherby simply take Nick Merkley’s spot up the middle on the fourth line? Or does Merkley get moved to his natural wing position besides Weatherby?

Here’s what I’m projecting:

Balcers-Hertl-Meier
Dahlen-Couture-Gregor
Cogliano-Bonino-Nieto
Viel-Weatherby-N. Merkley

Ferraro-Burns
Megna-Karlsson
Vlasic-R. Merkley

Hill

New York Rangers (23-10-4)

Where to Watch

Puck drop against New York is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on ESPN+. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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