Winning Play: Meier maximizes his game

When you’re as competitive as the San Jose Sharks have been during Doug Wilson’s tenure, you’ve got to hit on your few top-10 draft picks.

There’s no doubt Wilson has achieved that, directly or indirectly, with his four top-10 selections since his first draft in June 2003: Milan Michalek was spun into Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi became Brent Burns, while Logan Couture, and now, Timo Meier, have emerged as Sharks’ stars.

Meier’s skills took center stage during yesterday afternoon’s 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

“I thought he had good legs, he was one of the guys who I thought was really going,” Peter DeBoer said. “We actually double-shifted him a few times to keep him going.”

Joe Pavelski observed, “He’s got some good speed. He’s strong on pucks. That’s the biggest thing, big body who can skate.”

Meier’s (28) powerful stride is obvious, but he has other soft skills that allow him to maintain his speed on the rush. This isn’t the first time that he’s shown the dexterity to pass a puck behind him to his forehand, without losing momentum.

Pavelski added, “He hits a lot of holes with speed and good timing.”

Meier is perhaps best known for this ability to slash in and out of holes with authority. But he’s also evolved in terms of finding soft spots in even a slower game.

Unmarked off to the side of the net, Meier took an extra beat before hitting the hole for Joe Thornton’s (19) pass.

Meier noted, “With Jumbo, you know that you gotta get open in front of the net, he’ll find you.”

It’s also a credit to Meier, who displayed the patience to wait for the opening, instead of rushing it. His timing, popping from a resting position, took advantage of a split-second of space.

Here’s another example of Meier’s knack for getting open this season:

Watch Meier in front of the net: The Swiss winger walked down to the crease; Tyler Motte (64) noticed. So Meier backed off and Logan Couture (39) found him.

DeBoer continued, “He keeps adding layers to his game.”

In Evander Kane’s recent absence, DeBoer has given Meier Kane’s penalty-killing shifts.

This is a sign of the times. The 22-year-old’s minutes have increased from 12:28 average time on ice in his rookie campaign to 14:52 last year to 17:02 this season.

“There’s a lot more growth there coming,” DeBoer asserted. ”I think he’s capable of 19 minutes a night.”

Those are first-line minutes. Meier actually played over that last night, 20:06. It’s just the third time that he’s played over 20 minutes in a contest this year, the first time since Dec. 23.

It’s been a perfect storm of success for the Sharks up front this season.

Couture, Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi have contributed at customary or better levels.

Thornton and Pavelski are swimming in the fountain of youth.

Meier, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen are enjoying breakout campaigns.

It’s a wave of depth that San Jose is counting on to crush the opposition this spring.