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Meier eyes bigger role as leader for Sharks

Forward hoping to play in more situations after Pavelski signed with Stars in free agency

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Timo Meier is ready to take advantage of the opportunities created in the wake of Joe Pavelski's departure from the San Jose Sharks.

Ice time, power play, penalty killing, leadership. It's all there for the 22-year-old forward, who signed a four-year contract on July 1 after getting an NHL career-high 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games last season, his third in the League.

"I want to be a leader," Meier said. "I want to have a bigger role. I'm excited for the season because it's a challenge and a new chance for a guy like me."

 

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Meier's growth last season is a big reason why the Sharks feel confident they can move on seamlessly without Pavelski, their captain for the past four seasons who signed a three-year contract as a free agent with the Dallas Stars on July 1 after leading San Jose with 38 goals last season.

"I think Timo is going to wear a letter here one day down the road, no doubt in my mind," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.

DeBoer said Meier reminds him of Sharks forward Tomas Hertl after his third season. Hertl, who is entering his seventh season, will be an alternate captain this season after getting an NHL career high in goals (35), assists (39) and points (74) last season.

However, DeBoer said he also sees many of the same leadership qualities in Meier that he sees in forward Logan Couture, who was named the Sharks 10th captain on Sept. 12.

"He's always been a confident guy, and when you're young and confident, maybe it comes across as a little arrogant, but once you get to know him, you realize that he's just confident in his abilities and you can see why," Couture said of Meier. "He's such a good player. He does a lot of things that leaders are supposed to do. He plays hard. He plays the right way. He does whatever he can to help the team win, whether it's blocking a shot or whatever. With [Pavelski] gone, maybe he'll get on the [penalty kill] now, maybe he'll get on the ice in 6-on-5 situations, and in that aspect of the game, it gives him more of a role."

Video: STL@SJS, Gm1: Meier dekes to backhand for great goal

DeBoer said Meier's role will expand.

His ice time per game, 16:58 last season, fifth among Sharks forwards, should be somewhere around the 19:03 Pavelski played last season. But Meier will also get a look on the first power-play unit, and he will be a bigger presence on the penalty kill than he was last season, when he played an average of 31 seconds per game shorthanded.

"I think there's a lot more growth to his game," DeBoer said. "When you look at the production with the minutes he played, he was a very, very effective player." 

Meier was second on the Sharks last season in points per 60 minutes (2.99), behind Hertl (3.03).

"That's on me now, I have to get him out there on the ice more," DeBoer said. 

Meier has earned it because of how he's matured as a player in his three professional seasons.

His size (6-foot, 210 pounds) makes him a natural power forward, but when he came into his first NHL training camp as an 18-year-old after being selected with the No. 9 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, DeBoer said he was all about trying to just skate around and hit everybody in his path.

Video: STL@SJS, Gm1: Meier tallies off defender for second

"We could have kept him as a fourth-line guy, and he would have been an effective fourth-line guy in a physical role," DeBoer said. "But we all recognized that wasn't the best for his development."

As a result, San Jose sent Meier back to Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He turned pro the following season, but he wasn't quite ready to be the NHL player the Sharks thought he could be, so he split the season between the Sharks and their American Hockey League affiliate, also in San Jose.

Meier became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18, when he had 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 81 games, but he was learning on the fly what it took to be a power forward and realizing the difference between shot quality and shot volume.

"Timo was a shot-volume guy," DeBoer said. "He'd cross the blue line and he was looking to put the puck on the net." 

But Meier has learned how to pick his spots better and how to utilize his linemates to make plays. It helped him strike the right balance last season, DeBoer said, when Meier had 250 shots on goal with a shooting percentage of 12 percent. In 2017-18, he took 210 shots and scored on 10 percent.

"It's always important to be a guy that when the coach puts me on the ice, he knows what he is going to get," Meier said. "You want to be put out in all situations. That's something I want to improve on."

He's going to get the opportunity. With it, though, comes some pressure.

"He just signed a new deal and he has to be ready for that," Hertl said. "There's higher expectations now. He scored 30 goals last year and he was a young kid, but over the summer, he jumped to a different level, so he has to prove it and be ready. I still think he can be better."

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