LOS ANGELES, Calif. — In the summer of 2019, Timo Meier was part of the most celebrated class of RFA forwards in NHL history.
Mitch Marner. Brayden Point. Mikko Rantanen. Sebastian Aho. Patrik Laine. Kyle Connor. Matthew Tkachuk.
And while Meier wasn’t considered head of the class, to even be mentioned in the same breath was a testament to what the 22-year-old had achieved, and what he was expected to achieve.
Meier hasn’t exactly exploded since his breakout 30-goal 2018-19 campaign: Of this group of eight, over the last two seasons, the San Jose Sharks winger has the least amount of goals and points. He’s currently on an 82-game pace for just 16 goals this year.
|Player, 2019-21||Games||Goals||Primary Assists||Points|
But during last night’s 3-0 shutout of the Kings, Meier reminded everybody why Doug Wilson signed him to a four-year, $24 million dollar contract two summers ago.
Meier had a relatively modest one goal on the night – his linemate Rudolfs Balcers had three points — but his impact went beyond the obvious.
Per SPORTLOGiQ, in All Situations, Meier led both teams in Offensive Zone Possession Time (00:51), Slot Shots on Net (5), and Scoring Chances Off the Rush (2).
“It’s the best game I’ve seen him play all year,” Bob Boughner offered. “He was a threat every time he got on the ice.”
Martin Jones, who had a game himself, pitching a 30-save shutout, agreed: “Every time we had the puck, getting into the offensive zone, it seemed like he had a good chance to get a quality shot on net.”
For Boughner, this was the big difference: “Every time he attacked, he attacked on the outside first, instead of cutting to the middle.”
Basically, Meier wasn’t pulling up early in the zone and cutting toward the middle well before the net – when he cut to the middle, he was crashing the net. That’s underscored by Meier’s team-leading four High-Danger Attempts at 5-on-5, tied with Tomas Hertl, per Natural Stat Trick.
But even those stats just scratch the surface of how good the 24-year-old winger was last night.
Meier also led both teams with 27 combined Controlled Entries/Controlled Exits. The closest San Jose Sharks or Los Angeles Kings player? Evander Kane with 14.
This was especially impressive considering LA runs a 1-3-1 in the neutral zone, which can be tough to be beat when executed well.
“You do need some skill to get through that, I call it a wall,” Boughner pointed out. “It starts with trying to wear them down and quick up the puck in the neutral zone, so they don’t get organized. But when they do, we got to get pucks by them.”
But that’s not what Meier was doing – he was beating the 1-3-1 clean, from blueline to blueline at times.
“Timo took it upon himself tonight,” Boughner noted. “His first three, four strides were so quick and so heavy out of the gate that he had no problem cutting through that wall.”
Meier observed, of beating the 1-3-1: “You just got to make sure you manage pucks the right way. You got to find the open ice and make sure you make smart decisions. There’s a couple of times we had some room to skate through there. But also other times, you’ve gotta make a smart decision and place the puck in the right place so we can go on the forecheck.”
Clearly, Meier made a lot of smart decisions last night. Now it’s up to him to keep this up and make the San Jose Sharks look smart for committing to him.
“This is the most important time of the year right now. This is when you see your best players step up. You can tell the last couple of games, he looks like he’s more intent on the details of the game,” Boughner said. “That’s the best right there of Timo we’ve seen, and if that continues, we’re in good shape.”
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