Sharks’ Timo Meier Finally Meeting Star-Level Expectations

Since being drafted ninth overall in 2015, San Jose Sharks fans have been waiting for Timo Meier to reach his full potential. He has shown signs at times of reaching his top potential and other times where he has frustrated fans and the organization alike. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at draft comparables, as well as what the eye test and analytics say about the state of Meier’s potential.

Lofty 2015 Comparables

The 2015 draft class has produced some of the greatest stars in the NHL today. At the head of the class was generational talent Connor McDavid, but behind him before Meier was picked were also Jack Eichel and Mitchell Marner. The Sharks didn’t pick until 9th overall so those players were not available, but they did have to choose between Meier and Mikko Rantanen, Kyle Connor, and Mat Barzal among others.

Timo Meier San Jose Sharks
Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s hard to argue that the Sharks could not use a number one center like Barzal so perhaps he would have been a better choice. At the same time Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl are doing well as the top two pivots for the organization now. There currently nine players drafted in 2015 who have more points per game than Meier. In addition to McDavid, Eichel, Marner, Rantanen, Connor, and Barzal, there are also Sebastian Aho, Kirill Kaprizov, and Brock Boeser. As of now, seems like the Sharks made a mistake taking Meier. Or are they about to be proven correct?

What does the Eye Test Say?

Having watched Meier closely since he entered the league, it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. There are times where he has looked like one of the best players in the league. He has used his body to be physical and impose his will on opponents. At other times, he was completely invisible. In fact, for the past two seasons, Meier has essentially been a non factor for the Sharks, which has directly correlated with their lack of success. I don’t think it was a coincidence that their run in 2018-19 correlated with success for Meier, which was his best season statistically until now.

What I see from Meier this season is that he is not taking shifts or games off. His size, skill, and effort are on display every shift. He is dictating the pace and style of play to opponents instead of vice-versa. When the other team gets the momentum, it is often Meier’s line that helps the Sharks regain it. It pretty much boils down to the consistency that all players strive for and coaches preach. Easier said than done, but Meier seems like he has finally figured out how to be an effective player just about every minute of every game.

What do the Analytics Say?

Meier is in the midst of a career year. There are several metrics to point to that demonstrate just how awesome he has been, but one of my favorites is goals above replacement (GAR). GAR is a complex measure that takes into account offensive and defensive acumen at even strength, on the power play, and short handed. To correct for those who play different amounts of time on ice, it can be expressed as a per 60 minutes statistic (GAR/60).

Related: Sharks Having Plenty to Be Thankful for This Year

Meier is currently the top of the GAR/60 for all forwards who have played at least 250 minutes. The three players directly behind him are Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and David Pastrnak. That is impressive company to keep. We’ll see if he can keep it up. If you combine the past four seasons (2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22), Meier sits 31st in GAR/60 for all forwards with at least 3,500 minutes played. Still a solid number, but not quite as good as this season.

Sharks Timo Meier RAPM at Even Strength and Power Play courtesy of Evolving Hockey

In addition, Meier is well above replacement level in all offensive metrics. His defensive play as measured by his Corsi against per 60 minutes isn’t anything to write home about, but it is more than made up for by his offensive contributions. It is also more or less cancelled out by his expected goals against per 60 minutes, which is quite positive. Not as positive as his offensive metrics, but still quite good.

Can Meier Sustain it?

It’s hard to say whether or not this is just a hot streak or whether it will sustain all season. There are a definitely a few metrics that look unsustainable like his PDO, which is a combination of save percentage and shooting percentage. Most players see their number hover around 1000, and Meier’s is 1068. This means he is likely getting a bit lucky with his shooting percentage and the opposition’s save percentage. He is also shooting two percent over his career shooting percentage. He has also been in on every point the Sharks have scored on the power play meaning he is on the ice for a 100 percent points participation. That number should be closer to 70 percent so perhaps regress his power play point pace a bit.

On the other hand, Meier and his teammates have more expected goals both on the power play and at even strength than actual goals. If he and the rest of the team can score at least as many goals as expected, he won’t regress that much and might stay along the same trajectory. His points per 60 minutes is nearly double what it has been the past few seasons, which could mean an evolution of his skill or that he is just riding a hot streak.

Meier is shooting more than he ever has in his career. He’s getting over four shots per game, and his previous season high is 3.2 per game. It helps that Meier is getting the most time on ice of his career. Certainly Evander Kane’s absence has helped Meier get the opportunity to play more and he is excelling with the chance. He is also getting the most power play time on ice he’s ever had. His role shouldn’t change that much so I expect him to continue to get all the best opportunity for the rest of the season.

Timo Meier, Current NHL Star

Sharks fans can rejoice in what they are currently seeing from Meier. He is one of the main reasons the Sharks are in contention for a playoff spot in 2021-22. He might not sustain the current level of production, but even if he falls from the 100+ point pace, he will probably still reach a career high point pace if he doesn’t hit a huge cold spell. No matter what the rest of the season holds, it appears that Meier the NHL star has arrived, which should make the negotiation of his next contract before the 2023-24 season quite interesting.