In his first full season with the San Jose Sharks, Timo Meier did much more than just prove he belonged. With 21 goals and 15 assists, the young Swiss winger gave Sharks fans their first real hint that this kid may just be the franchise power forward that the Sharks hoped they were getting with the ninth-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
To put Meier’s 21 first-full-season goals in perspective, Joe Pavelski had 19 goals in his first full year. Joe Thornton, a true goal-scoring power forward sensation at the time, had just 16 in his. Patrick Marleau had 13. And before you say, “Well, Devin Setoguchi had 31 in his first full season,” I’m going to say it first, which I just did. I’ll follow that by noting that I am not already putting the second year Meier on the mantle of all-time Shark greats, I’m simply saying that 21 goals is a nice start to a professional career, much nicer than say, 10 goals, and it bodes well for his ability to perform at this level.
What also bodes well, is that Meier scored 18 of his 21 in the final 53 games after a slow start to the season. This shows a young player who keeps his head up and works through it. It shows a young player who is capable of learning how to contribute despite adversity. It also shows a young player that sustained what could be a 27-goal season if he learns how to consistently maintain that level of production in his next full season.
Another excellent sign was that Meier chipped in another 5 points in 10 games in the playoffs. While that isn’t mind-blowing by any stretch, it does show that he can handle increased pressure when it counts. Confidence is a huge key to success in this game.
Speaking of confidence, you may be surprised that Meier was tied for 58th in the league for shots on goal. His 210 shots ranked third on the Sharks, higher than Logan Couture’s 204. It was more than Patrick Marleau got with the Leafs. It was more than James Neal, Claude Giroux, Anze Kopitar or Leon Draisaitl, and all of those players had between 14 to 25 percent more ice time than Meier had. Meier had only 2 fewer shots on goal than Steven Stamkos.
Before you think “bad shot selection,” here is Meier’s shot chart from the entire 2017 campaign (including playoffs).
First off, the kid fires it from everywhere, which takes confidence. Second, 50 percent of his shots were down low and good quality (i.e., below and between the dots). This shows a young man going to tough areas and/or carrying the puck in deep. More than that though, 8 of his goals were wrist shots from more than 10 feet out including this absolute snipe on Carey Price. He’s a power forward that’s about more than just big-body, scrappy goals.
All put together, his totals and chart paint a picture of a confident player who knows how to get open, who goes to the tough areas, with good hands, who is comfortable with the puck on his stick and who can score in a wide variety of ways from many locations on the ice. If you require more proof, you can always watch this video which shows every single one of Meier’s goals set to what sounds like adult-film background music.
Beyond shots, Meier held his own in many other ways. He was third on the Sharks in hits and fifth on the team in takeaways. He showed positive possession numbers and wasn’t terribly sheltered by the coaching staff. Here’s proof:
Timo Meier is only 21-years-old and last year was his first full season. For Sharks fans, there is a lot to like here. To his burgeoning skill set and his big body who gets in front of the net, consider that this year Meier will be setting screens for both Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, two defensemen who get lots of pucks through. And considering that this new-look Sharks offense has plenty of weapons on the depth chart who will attract attention before young Meier, it seems reasonable to think that the second-year forward will have a season full of attractive match ups and be even more able to find open ice.
What seems easy to believe here is that Meier likely has a long career ahead of him in the NHL. But what is his goal scoring ceiling? 25 goals? 30 goals?
Let’s just assume that stays exactly the same year in year out and that he just puts up 210 shots on goal every year for the next while. Last year, Meier’s shooting percentage was 10 percent. If Meier upped his shooting percentage (the percentage of shots that become goals) to just 12 percent, that’s a 25-goal eason.
To put it in perspective, last season, seven regular forwards on the Sharks shot over 12 percent: Barclay Goodrow (12.3), Joel Ward (12.5), Mikkel Boedker (12.6), Tomas Hertl (12.6), Chris Tierney (14.4), Logan Couture (16.7), and Joe Thornton (17.3). If Meier fell somewhere around the mean of these top seven, (approximately 14 percent), he’d have 29 goals.
For more perspective, William Karlsson led the league with an insane 23.4 percent shooting percentage and career high 43 goals. Logan Couture’s career shooting percentage is 12.5. Patrick Marleau’s is 13.4. Alex Ovechkin’s is 12.4. In other words, Wild Bill will not be doing that every year. But if Meier does it once? If he even reached 20 percent? That’s a 42-goal season. A logical plateau for Meier puts him at about a 27-33 goal range, if he ups his shooting percentage marginally. If he produces more shots, this number could go up. If his career year sees a number like William Karlsson’s, he could hit 40 goals as a reasonable ceiling.
What we like
Isn’t it fun to have a first round draft pick continue to show promise? The Sharks don’t have a long list to celebrate, with Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture being the only examples in the last 13 years or so. But Timo Meier just may work out. With Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers gone from the ranks of stand-out prospects under 25, it becomes that much more imperative that the top of this list pans out. Meier has shown lots of tools and growth and has set himself up for an exciting sophomore campaign.
Areas of improvement
Meier could stand to look around the ice a bit more, head up, with the puck. He doesn’t have a history of being a puck-hog; in juniors he showed good balance on the scoresheet, with 95 goals and 116 assists in his three seasons in the QMJHL, but he only tallied 15 assists with his 21 goals last year. It seems likely that Meier has just needed some time to get used to the speed of the NHL game. As the game slows down, his playmaking should improve.
While you can see all of Meier’s goals from last regular season above, the primo Timo highlight came in the playoff series against the Golden Knights. On the power play, the clip starts with Meier being in perfect position to stop Evander Kane’s wrap around pass to set up the in-zone power play. Meier stops it, head up, and with the attacker now on him makes the right play to Dylan DeMelo at the point. As DeMelo peels toward the center, Meier reads this and heads to support the puck and/or cover the point, should DeMelo attack the zone. All great signs from a young player doing the little things.
Once DeMelo sends the puck to Mikkel Boedker, Meier curls toward the net and hustles, following in Boedker’s long slapper. When the rebound comes directly to Chris Tierney, Meier turns to open up for the pass. Tierney sends it just behind Meier, who left the stick back enough to receive it and fire the one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury to open scoring in a crucial Game 2.
The whole sequence shows a young player playing technically sound, making smart decisions, and delivering precision offense under high pressure in a crucial situation. It shows savvy, poise, hockey IQ and execution. What more could you ask from a 21-year-old in year one?