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Can Timo Meier make the Sharks this season?

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We look at the Swiss player’s odds.

2015 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Timo Meier doesn’t need anything more from junior hockey. Coming off a season where he played for two teams, the second of which (Rouyn-Noranda) won the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League title, and scored 87 points in 52 regular season games. That ground has been plowed as much as necessary and it’s time for Meier to make his professional debut.

The question now is whether the No. 9 pick from the 2015 draft will make that debut with the Sharks or the Barracuda. Meier turns 20 in October, making him eligible to join the ‘Cuda, but he likely has his eyes on the big club. The Sharks sent Meier back to Halifax following a solid training camp showing last year, but it’s unlikely that will be the case this season.

Meier can play nine games with the Sharks before they must decide whether to keep him in a professional league for the 2016-17 season. If Meier plays a 10th game, whether it be with the Sharks or Barracuda, his contract activates and his junior career will be officially over.

So that’s the background. What really matters is if Meier is ready for the NHL. We’ve seen what he can do in juniors, and yeah, it’s spectacular, but how will that hold up against adults?

Given his size (6’0, 212 pounds), I’d like to think that transition will be slightly easier. He uses his body in much the same way that Tomas Hertl does, albeit with a bigger emphasis on throwing hits than Hertl.

Here’s one scouting report on Meier from 2014:

A physically dominant winger with the ability to play in a skill or character role. In the offensive end, Meier is very aware and gets himself into spaces where he can easily make seeing eye passes or snap hard, accurate shots. Can impact the game in a number of different ways, and is very consistent in his efforts. All-in-all, the kind of versatile player who you can put on a skill line, and trust to create dangerous chances, or on a shutdown line, and trust to help stop pucks from going into your net. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)

Here are some highlights for Meier from the 2015 World Junior Championships. He had two goals and four assists for Switzerland, but I was most impressed with the way he uses his big body to get to the net.

Again, much like Hertl (and Joe Thornton do a degree), he’ll keep opponents at bay with his body while stickhandling his way to scoring areas. See for yourself:

In his first game against his old club, Meier potted a hat trick. You can see some of the same tendencies here. He uses a combination of speed and good hands to score on a wraparound and scores a pair of goals on tips in front of the net. I know I’ve said it before, but the way Meier plays will fit perfectly with Joe Pavelski and Thornton if given the opportunity.

Meier will almost certainly get an opportunity. If he makes the team, he’ll join this list of Sharks players who played their rookie season at 20 or younger.

Of that group, 10 played at least half a season with the big club, with Chris Tierney being the most recent. Before that you’d have to go back to Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s rookie season in 2006-07. There’s precedent for what Meier will attempt to do, but it hasn’t happened all that regularly.

Because we’ve never seen Meier play against adults (okay, okay, against adults older than 20) projecting his success with the Sharks (or even the Barracuda) is difficult. Based on what he showed in the QMJHL last year (admittedly the weakest of the three CHL leagues) and in the WJCs he has played in, I like his chances.

The way Meier uses his body to make plays in addition to his speed and good hands give him a very good chance of starting next season with the Sharks. From there, it’s up to him to dictate how long he sticks.