Editor's note: The Sharks open training camp later this week, looking to replace nearly 60 regular-season goals from departed forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Before camp officially begins, NBC Sports California is examining the players who will help San Jose fill that goal-scoring void. We start with Timo Meier.
Only one NHL player scored more goals playing fewer minutes per game than Sharks winger Timo Meier last season.
Meier averaged a career-high 16:58 per night in his third season in San Jose, but he still scored a career-high 30 goals. Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, meanwhile, scored 33 while averaging just 16:24 per game in ice time.
Although his emergence unsurprisingly coincided with a career-high shooting percentage (12 percent), Meier's scoring efficency bodes well for his chances of having another career year. A significant uptick in minutes, combined with continued development, means Meier is a strong candidate to help the Sharks make up for the offensive production they lost this offseason.
Meier played just shy of 14 minutes per night in 5-on-5 situations, where he arguably was the Sharks' most impactful forward. He generated shot attempts, expected goals, scoring chances and high-danger chances at a higher rate than any other San Jose forward last season, according to Natural Stat Trick, and led them in goals (22), too.
Where Meier did not play as much was on the power play. Seven Sharks forwards averaged more power-play ice time than the Swiss winger (1:48), but few were as active: Meier led Sharks forwards in shots per hour, expected goals per hour, scoring chances per hour and high-danger chances per hour.
Meier still tied for fourth on the Sharks in power-play goals (six) last season, and he stands to benefit most from Joe Pavelski's departure. Pavelski's presence as a power-play fixture needs to be replaced, as the former San Jose captain led the team in power-play ice time last season. Meier not convert on over 15 percent of his power-play shots again, but he had enough looks at the net last season where additional ice time alone could be enough for him to exceed last year's goal-scoring totals.
That's if you assume Meier continues to generate shots and chances at the same rate, rather than improving upon either. Meier won't turn 23 until October, so it's possible he has another level to reach next season. Still, Meier ranked no worse than fifth among forwards who played a minimum of 750 5-on-5 minutes last season in generating attempts, shots and chances. He already was among the NHL's best in those areas last season, so any improvement would likely be incremental.
But that and more ice time can be a potent combination, and there will be plenty of the latter to go around. Pavelski didn't play much more than Meier in 5-on-5 situations, but his 14:19 in full-strength ice time will be spread throughout the rest of the lineup. The 35-year-old played nearly three minutes per night on the power play, and Meier has as good a chance of anyone on the roster to fill Pavelski's vacated spot on the Sharks' top power-play unit.
This year, Meier likely will get more chances to do the same things that drove his breakout season. That's a good formula for more goals, and continued development from Meier turns it into a great one.