San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier played in the 34th game of his rookie season in April. He played in the 34th game of his second NHL season on Thursday.
In the same game, the second-year winger scored his sixth goal of the season, and his third in his last six games. The goal also doubled his production from a season ago.
What a difference a year, and some luck, makes.
Meier’s first professional season was defined by its ups and downs, and for good reason. The 21-year-old entered his rookie campaign as San Jose’s most recent first round pick, a future foundational piece ready to push the veterans that had taken the Sharks to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance months prior.
Instead, Meier struggled to score. He attempted five-on-five shots at a higher rate than every Shark, including Brent Burns, but San Jose scored on only 5.24 percent of their shots with Meier on the ice during five-on-five play, according to Corsica Hockey.
They’ve only scored on 5.79 percent of their shots in the same circumstances this season, but Meier’s personal shooting percentage has doubled, from 3.75 to 8.11 percent. He’s actually attempting shots at a lower rate than last season, to the tune of just over four fewer shot attempts per hour, but regression to the mean has offset that.
The puck’s gone in more, and Meier’s earned greater trust from the coaching staff. He’s averaging a full minute more in ice time this season (13:28) than he did as a rookie, and other than a healthy scratch on October 23, has played in each of San Jose’s games.
Perhaps the biggest difference in his game, though, has been Meier’s emergence as a genuine pest. He’s more than tripled his penalty minutes from last season, but more importantly, is tied for the team lead in penalties drawn.
Considering how much the Sharks have relied upon their much improved power play lately, that may just be Meier’s most important contribution this season. Even if he was not scoring goals himself, creating more opportunities for a now-dominant power play is a vital skill.
But unlike last season, Meier is scoring, and flashing the potential that enamored the Sharks enough to draft him in the top 10 ahead of Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser, among others. This season, at least, the proverbial clock has ticked much closer to ‘Timo time.’