With the 9th overall pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft, the Sharks have selected winger Timo Meier of the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads. With 44 goals and 90 points this season, Meier was one of the highest-scoring players in this draft class. The 3rd Sharks draft pick from Switzerland in three years uses his 6'1", 209-pound frame to play a power forward game but also boasts a hard, accurate wrist shot he can release quickly off his blade. Here's a more detailed scouting report from Last Word On Sports:
Timo Meier has great hockey sense and gets to the open areas of the ice, where he can be set up to finish chances with an excellent shot and release. He has a very good arsenal of shots with an excellent snapshot, strong wrist shot, and very good one-timer. He can be very effective off the half-boards on the powerplay. Meier is also a very physical player, establishing his position in the slot and winning board battles to create offence. He has the good hand-eye co-ordination to tip in pucks and pounce on rebounds. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and can punish opposing defencemen with hits behind the net. Meier also has good vision and passing skills, and the smarts to make a good pass when he is working the cycle. He has some finesse in his game with good stickhandling skills, and the ability to finish plays in tight.
Meier is already an effective two-way player. He kills penalties for the Mooseheads, anticipating plays well and using his long stick to break up passes, and start the transition. He is a willing back checker who provides excellent back pressure in support of his defencemen. Meier is not afraid to get physical in his own end, containing his man down low, and working to win battles on the boards. He is also more than willing to block shots, if necessary.
Timo Meier has the potential to be a top six winger if he reaches his ceiling. This may take some time and patience for the team drafting him. Even if he does not reach his ceiling, he could be an effective NHLer capable of playing a strong defensive game in his own end, and being an effective grinder on the third line. Meier’s game is reminiscent of Max Pacioretty, however this is a stylistic comparison only, and not a talent one.
Meier was ranked 10th among North American prospects by Central Scouting, 14th by ISS, 12th by Bob McKenzie and as low as 26th by ESPN's Corey Pronman so he was likely a slight reach here. Still, there are certainly things to like about Meier, including his NHL-projectable size and draft year production. At the same time, there are some significant caveats when it comes to his impressive scoring numbers this season. For starters, Meier is one of the oldest players in this draft class--were he born just three weeks earlier, he would have been eligible for the 2014 entry draft, meaning he had an additional year of development compared to most of his peers. To that end, his draft-1 season in 2013-14 was largely unimpressive as he scored just 34 points in 66 games. This past year, he was shifted to the opposite wing of Nikolaj Ehlers, one of the best prospects in hockey, which is far and away the biggest explanation for Meier's jump in scoring.
Ehlers assisted on 26 of Meier's 44 goals this season while Meier assisted on just 14 of Ehlers' 37, strongly suggesting the Swiss forward benefited more from his linemate's presence than the other way around. That suspicion is confirmed by watching Mooseheads games where Ehlers is constantly the primary puck-carrier and set-up man on that line although Meier does do a commendable job of driving the net and finding open areas of the ice. Furthermore, Meier relied heavily on the power play to create his offense as less than 60% of his points and less than 50% of his goals came at even-strength.
Between Meier's advanced age relative to other 2015 draft prospects, his significant benefit from playing with Ehlers and his relative lack of even-strength scoring, there are real reasons to think his draft-year numbers are less translatable to the NHL than other prospects the Sharks could have taken at #9 like Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor or even Lawson Crouse. At the NHL level, where he won't be playing alongside a linemate who outpaces the rest of his entire league like Ehlers does and where Meier's advanced physical development won't be as much an advantage as it is in the QMJHL, it's difficult to say whether or not he'll still be a scorer. He likely has the size and work ethic to still be an effective bottom-six player in the big leagues but when drafting 9th overall, especially as a team that picks in the top ten as rarely as the Sharks, you'd like to aim for more upside than that.
In the interest of getting a sample of his play without Ehlers, here are highlights of Meier's World Junior tournament performance with Team Switzerland: