It is easy to forget that rising star Timo Meier is only 23 years old.
The Swiss native carries himself with maturity and confidence. He seems hungry for goals, finding the perfect spot for a tap-in or rushing through defensemen to fire his laser of a wrist shot. And, as team captain Logan Couture said, he is easy to play with:
“He does so many things well. He can skate with the puck, he creates a lot with the puck … he’s always been a confident player, you have to be. To be a successful player, you have to be confident in your abilities.”
On the ice, Meier exudes that confidence.
Last season, he put up a career-best 66 points. At times he looked unstoppable, scoring 30 goals in a variety of situations. Occasionally, Meier would find the opportunity to show off a flashy deke. He did just that in Game 1 of the 2019 Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues.
After the game, former captain Joe Pavelski said:
“[Meier’s] got some good speed. He makes some good little plays out there. Tonight, it was on display. When he picks it up in that neutral zone and he has the speed going … that one goal was really nice.”
Pavelski was referring to Meier slipping past a St. Louis defenseman and quickly tucking the puck past goaltender Jordan Binnington off his backhand.
Coming off a career-high 30-goal season, Meier had the confidence to show off his quick hands. But he had used that move before.
Meier used the backhand-tuck move on a breakaway in a very different circumstance: to score a seventh goal in an 8-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the beginning of the season.
Later in the season, on March 9 against the Blues, he used the same move when he found himself alone in front of the net.
But the intensity of these situations are incomparable to the opening game of the Western Conference Finals, when Meier showed off his skill and confidence against the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Meier said:
“The mindset doesn’t change when you get an opportunity to score, you try to do whatever you can. Sometimes you just stay cool, do what has worked before. … I was coming in on the right angle, I thought the goalie was moving the way I wanted him too. Luckily, it worked out.”
Waiting for “Timo time”
Meier credits his maturity to his journey through hockey. At the age of 16, Meier moved from Switzerland to Canada to play in the Quebec Major Junior League (QMJHL). He said:
“You have to mature early, you come here and it’s business. … I was on my own, I had to learn lots. I’ve been around good people which has helped me develop my personality, so big credit to them.”
After a 90-point season with the Halifax Mooseheads, Meier was drafted ninth overall by the Sharks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. However, he did not play in the NHL that season. Meanwhile, other first round picks like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were immediately put into the starting lineups of their teams, expected to be instant difference-makers and franchise leaders.
For Meier, the road to the Sharks’ top line had a detour. Head coach Pete DeBoer said:
“It was tempting. He could have played, he could have helped us, but it would have been in a fourth-line role as a physical guy that went out there five, six, seven, eight minutes a night and crashed around.”
But that was not the role the Sharks envisioned for Meier. At the time, Meier was projected to become exactly what he is now— a speedy, heavy-hitting goal-scorer. DeBoer said:
“Power forwards take longer … because of the added dimension of the physicality with the skill. It takes a little while to figure out how to combine those things at this level, against men.”
“I remember my first camp, I thought I had a pretty good camp. I think they had a plan to send me back before camp. They told me to go back in junior, develop my game in all aspects, develop as a person and take more responsibility in junior.”
So Meier did just that. He returned to Halifax as the team captain. Meier was later traded to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, with whom he went to the Memorial Cup Finals. Through 18 playoff games, Meier was the Huskies’ second-leading point scorer with 11 goals and 23 points.
While Meier made it to the top of junior hockey, the Sharks were on their run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. Meier said:
“The first year, I didn’t make the team, they went on and played in the Stanley Cup Finals, so that shows a lot. … They were always a good team, they have a lot of veteran players. So coming in I didn’t have the same role as other guys that were my draft class … but it helped me in my development in the two-way game, cleaning up the defensive things.”
With another successful season in juniors under his belt, Meier made the jump to professional hockey. In the 2016-17 season, he split time between the San Jose Barracuda and the Sharks, earning just three goals and three assists in 34 games to start his NHL career. Of Meier’s development, DeBoer said:
“It wasn’t linear. It was up and down. We knew that — we expected it — and we knew that there would be a return at the end if we were patient.”
Meier solidified his spot in the roster in the 2017-18 season, putting up 36 points in 81 games. Which of course, Meier followed up with his recent breakout season, where he racked up 66 points and became the first Swiss-born player to record a 30-goal season. For both Sharks and Meier, the patience paid off, and that was the return. And with Meier signing to a four-year, $24 million contract extension, there is a promise for more. Couture said:
“His road has been similar to mine. He had to go down to the [AHL] and prove that he can be a good pro player. You appreciate it when you get to the NHL a little bit more, when you have to really battle in the [AHL] to get up here.”
Meier may only be a 23-year-old among the many veteran players in San Jose, but he carries himself with the confidence and maturity of a well-developed power forward, ready to help usher in a new era of Sharks hockey.
As for another backhanded-tuck goal, that move may be retired for now, in favor of something new. Meier said:
“I’ve definitely got to try some different moves now. Because that one worked two or three times now, I’ve got to switch it up a little bit.”