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The Impending Monster Season from Timo Meier

Timo Meier is in a position to have a great 2023-24 season. This post will show that Timo Meier was fantastic at generating offense in 5-on-5 even if it did not always lead to points. Should he maintain that, the points may flow like water next season.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Two
Timo Meier, you are in a position to have a great 2023-24 season.
Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

I know today is the beginning of the 2023 Prospects Challenge. The official website of the New Jersey Devils will stream all of the action up in Buffalo featuring several of the team’s prospective hockey players as well as several prospective Utica Comet and Adirondack Thunder players. However, this begins the pre-season portion of the year. Veterans will report on Tuesday and take to the ice on Wednesday. Pre-season games will begin on September 25, which is less than two weeks away. Before you know it, we will have our multi-part season preview up and games that count will happen in Newark and abroad. I am looking forward to it for many reasons. One of which is Timo Meier. I think he is in a place to have a monstrous season for the New Jersey Devils. Allow me to explain.

A Surface Level Look Timo Meier as a Devil

The New Jersey Devils made an impact when they completed a trade for Timo Meier on February 26, 2023. Meier was a pending free agent on a Sharks team set to re-build. Meier has been a consistent scorer for the Sharks since his breakout 2018-19 season and he was on a tear in what would be his final stay in San Jose. In 57 games, he put up 255 shots, 31 goals, and 52 points. He was the big, powerful, and available scoring winger that the People Who Matter coveted for their team (among others, of course). Meier was out with a minor injury at the time of the deal; but the wait was not long. He would make his Devils debut on March 5. Meier slid in a rebound against Arizona for his first goal with New Jersey. Surely, the scoring would continue.

It did - but at a lesser pace. It took four more games before Meier would register another point with the Devils; an assist on March 14 against Tampa Bay. His name would become a bit more frequent on the scoresheet from then on. Meier put up nine goals and 14 points in 21 regular season games with the Devils. In the postseason, Meier put up two goals and two assists in 11 games. On the surface, this is not bad, but was it worth all that excitement? The hype? The price of a complex deal?

Yes. Because Meier created a lot of offense in those 21 season games and 11 playoff games. Enough to make me confident he can do it again in 2023-24 and beyond. Enough to make me think the production will come and it will be glorious. This is going to be from a macro-perspective

Offense is More than Points and Meier Brought It in the Regular Season

Goals and points have value. No one is disputing it. But hockey is a game where a really good shooter is still putting in fewer than a fifth of their shots on net. It is a sport where getting goalied is absolutely a possibility and a reality. Creating offense involves more than getting on the scoresheet. It involves creating a shooting opportunity at all and Meier was great at that with the Devils.

Let us begin with the regular season. While Meier did not play until March 5, I looked up the individual stats of NHL players in 5-on-5 hockey situations (the most common situation in hockey) since February 27 (first day after the trade) at Natural Stat Trick. I filtered it for players who played at least 200 minutes since February 27 to focus on those who played regularly and a lot, such as Meier. Out of 479 NHL players, here is how Timo Meier ranked in the following categories and how it compares with other Devils in that time frame:

  • Goals: 5, tied for 58th - Behind Erik Haula (7), Dawson Mercer (7); tied with Jesper Bratt, Dougie Hamilton, and Jesper Boqvist.
  • Points: 7, tied for 194th - Behind Nico Hischier (14), Jack Hughes (13), Damon Severson (12), Bratt (11), Mercer (10), Hamilton (10), Boqvist (10), Haula (9), Tomas Tatar (8), and Ondrej Palat (8).
  • Shots: 55, tied for 16th - Second to Hughes (61, tied for 7th).
  • Expected Goals: 5.89, 16th - Fourth to Hughes (6.46, 6th), Hischier (6.21, 9th), and Mercer (6.11, 12th).
  • Shot Attempts: 109, 11th - Third to Hamilton (114) and Hughes (111).
  • Scoring Chances: 72, tied for 4th - Ahead of Hughes (70).
  • High Danger Scoring Chances (attempts at the crease and in the middle slot): 29, tied for 16th - Third to Bratt (35, 4th) and Hischier (33, tied for 6th).

While Meier’s production was far from a standout, he was one of the most prolific shooters in the entire NHL since becoming a Devil last season. Remember, all of those ranks are out of 479 players. Being 16th in shots, for example, means only 15 players shot the puck more than him since February 27, 2023 to April 15, 2023. A group that included Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak, the Tkachuk brothers, and The Big Deal. A rank that high is remarkable.

Meier accomplished such ranks in the categories in more repeatable acts like shooting the puck and shooting the puck in dangerous locations on the ice. This is what the team saw and realized the worth of the deal and his eventual extension. This is what the People Who Matter saw to justify their hype. This is what Meier can bring to the table. Had he hit a hot streak of shooting percentage, there would have been more goals, more points, and more adulation.

Granted, the above were just raw numbers. Not everyone played the same amount of games or had the same amount of ice time. We can account for that. Here is how those stats for Meier look and rank with a per-60 minute rate for each stat?

  • Goals/60: 1.01, tied for 79th - Behind Haula (1.55, tied for 20th), Mercer (1.21), and Boqvist (1.15).
  • Points/60: 1.41, tied for 237th - Behind Nico Hischier (2.63), Boqvist (2.31), Hughes (2.18), Bratt (2.16), Haula (1.99), Severson (1.83), Mercer (1.72), Palat (1.67) Bratt (11), Tatar (1.55), and Hamilton (1.55).
  • Shots/60: 11.08, 14th - Ahead of Hughes (10.21, 23rd).
  • Expected Goals/60: 1.19, tied for 10th - Ahead of Hischier (1.17, tied for 13th)
  • Shot Attempts/60: 21.96, 6th - Ahead of Hughes (18.58, 20th).
  • Scoring Chances/60: 14.5, 2nd - Ahead of Bratt (12.78, 7th).
  • High Danger Scoring Chances/60: 5.84, 23rd - Third to Bratt (6.88, 5th) and Hischier (6.2, 15th).

Once again, we see the same story. The production was not so impressive. But when it came to firing the puck - a result of getting into spaces or just forcing his way to make space with the puck - Meier was a top-tier player. His rate of shots, attempts, and especially shots from dangerous locations was among the best in the NHL when he was a Devil. While this did not lead to a high rate of production and these numbers are not exactly obvious, those who saw him perform did pick up on it. Meier was creating plenty of offense.

Also: Note that Meier was only behind or ahead of Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt, and/or Nico Hischier in those categories. In 5-on-5 hockey with the Devils, his most common forward teammates were Bratt, Hughes, Boqvist, and Hischier in that order. he played over 90 minutes total with each. It is not a far-fetched idea that Meier helped them create or finish plays. Boqvist was relatively hot when it came to production in this timeframe, too. It is not a stretch to suggest that Meier helped them as much as they helped him.

This is a major reason why I think Meier is in a position to have a monster season with the Devils in 2023-24. Streaks will come and go. But a player who can generate shots at a very high level is more likely to repeat that than their production. It speaks very well of Meier’s talent that he kept that up even when the puck was not going into the net. This even showed itself in the postseason.

Meier Also Brought It in the Regular Season

The playoffs for the New Jersey Devils was a success, but not a total one. No, they did not win the Stanley Cup. No, they got slammed by Carolina’s aggressive forechecking, which stemmed the Devils’ offense while also pressuring their defense further. They did win a playoff round, they came back from a 0-2 deficit to do so, they did it in the face of a legitimately great goaltending performance by Igor Shesterkin, and it was at the glorious cost of embarrassing Our Hated Rivals. After five years since the last playoff appearance and eleven since the last playoff series victory, I see it as a good thing.

Of course, it was not all glitter and gold. The up-tempo Devils that scored loads of goals in the regular season were limited to just three out of eleven games where they scored 3 or more non-empty net goals. Timo Meier scored two goals, put up four points, and agonizingly missed a wide open net in Game 5 in Carolina - which would end up being the end of the 2023 campaign. Yet, the People Who Matter were mostly fine with Meier’s performances. Why? Just as with the 21 regular season games, Meier brought plenty of offense in the Devils’ eleven playoff games. For evidence, here are the 5-on-5 rate stats of all NHL players who played at least 80 minutes in the 2023 postseason from Natural Stat Trick. Out of 228 players, here’s how Meier did in each stat:

  • Goals/60: 0.39, tied for 116th - Behind Miles Wood (1.39), Hughes (1.28), Nathan Bastian (0.53), Tatar (0.42), and Mercer (0.40).
  • Points/60: 1.18, tied for 121st - Behind Hughes (2.23), Mercer (1.61), Hischier (1.44), and Wood (1.39).
  • Shots/60: 12.15, tied for 4th - Ahead of Hughes (9.88, 21st).
  • Expected Goals/60: 1.39, 3rd - Second to Hischier (1.43, 2nd).
  • Shot Attempts/60: 25.08, 2nd - Ahead of Hughes (18.17, 16th).
  • Scoring Chances/60: 13.72, 4th - Ahead of Hischier (10.78, 13th).
  • High Danger Scoring Chances/60: 9.40, 1st - Ahead of Hischier (7.54, 3rd).

While this is influenced by the number of games as well as the circumstances (better opponents, consistent opponents), Meier put up absolutely great rates of offense in the postseason. I agree that I wish more of those shots went into the net. I can agree those who would prefer Jonathan Marchessault, who put up worse rates but got to play all of the games for the ultimate prize. But these numbers provide the substance that supports the People Who Matter who were generally supportive of Meier’s play in the postseason as opposed to, say, Jesper Bratt or Dawson Mercer. (Aside: It also supports similar praise for Hischier even if the points were not there.) Again, one does not watch a game and go “Sweet, Meier is beefing up his xG” but one does see Meier get/force himself into good places to shoot and take shots. That is counted in xG and scoring chances. In other words, what you saw him do on the ice was valuable.

It also makes it more likely that it can be repeated. Again, this is 11 games against a hated rival with a top-tier goalie and a super-talented Carolina team that only lost the way such a team could lose - getting epically goalied. This is after 21 games of joining the roster, still being moved around to figure out where he best fits, and taking his time before the points became more frequent. I can understand those that look at the raw point counts and wonder where is the beef. This is the beef.

Concluding Thoughts

In Meier’s 32 appearances with the Devils so far in his career, Meier has demonstrated he can create his own shot and do it frequently in 5-on-5 play. He has done so at a rate among the best in the entire NHL. Being able to put up a high individual xG or simply rack up a high rate of shots in 5-on-5 is a very positive sign for an offensive player. It is someone who can find the spaces, make them where necessary, and simply attack. The goals and points will flow from that. It is impressive that Meier achieved this when he was not scoring as much as some may have desired in 2022-23 with New Jersey. It gives me confidence that he can repeat this to lead to a more productive season.

Keep in mind that this is all looking at his 5-on-5 stats. I did not touch his power play stats because that is a bit of a wild card. With Travis Green now behind the bench in place of Andrew Brunette, the power play could see some changes. Further, more offensive situations for a guy who creates a lot of offense is generally a good thing. Provided Green, Lindy Ruff, and the rest of the staff come up with a solid plan that fits the players’ talents, Meier could stand to produce a ton in power play situations. I am more concerned with 5-on-5 because the vast majority of the game is played in that state. The top scorers, the great offensive players, and valuable skaters all have to perform well in 5-on-5 to help their team succeed. That Meier has been so great at creating offense in 5-on-5 situations for New Jersey immediately after joining the team is a great sign going forward.

One more point to bring up. In the regular season with New Jersey, Meier shot at 9.09% - which is a bit below his rate with the Sharks last season and three of his past five seasons. In the post season, he shot at 3.23% - a rather low rate. At the risk of committing the Gambler’s Fallacy, I do not think Meier has done anything different to cause these lower shooting percentages. Should he get some more puck luck, there will be more goals, more points, and more reason to hype up Meier.

Leaving that point aside, I am confident that barring injury or some Haula-esque bad fortune at finishing, Timo Meier is in a position to do a lot of good for the New Jersey Devils. He is in a position to make the People Who Matter at the Rock stand up quite a bit and cheer on goals. He is in a position to make the People Who Matter all of the world watching and following along appreciate the Devils just a bit more. Meier has shown he can create his shot and at a very high rate in his first few months in New Jersey. Maintain that - which is very possible as he did it in the season and in the playoffs - and Meier should be expected to have a great 2023-24 season. What’s great from Meier will be great for the Devils.

Now that you know my take on Meier, I want to know yours. Do you think Meier will have a monstrous season? Why? What do you expect from Meier in 2023-24? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about him in the comments. Thank you for reading.