The second of true predictions for the month of August about the 2016-17 San Jose Sharks:
There are more than enough prediction possibilities out there for the San Jose Sharks this 2016-17 NHL season. As was stated in the first edition of this series, too many of them are either safe bets few would make with you or things you should not bet on happening.
With speculation all there is for fans in August, many are augustly searching for an alternative. Reading that the Sharks will make the playoffs is not particularly interesting, but saying they will win the Stanley Cup is not especially objective.
The league is too deep for anyone to have great odds to win the Stanley Cup. Multiple teams that were right there last May will be even better this next.
That said, San Jose is stronger than it was for most of the 2015-16 NHL season. In fact, the talent is better than the one that made the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup finals appearance everywhere but at the backup goalie position.
That is always the first place anyone should look to predict anything about a season. That starts with who makes the roster.
The player most people following the Sharks are most interested in seeing is Timo Meier. What he has shown to this point makes it seem so likely he makes the roster that it is not noteworthy.
CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz quoted San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer last September saying Meier “was a lot closer than people might know” to making the roster for the entire 2015-16 NHL season. He was then incredible in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and plays with size enough to handle the biggest players in the world.
That makes him more likely to be the roster than the older, offensively-gifted Nikolay Goldobin because he does not have to be one of the six most dangerous forwards on the team to make the cut. He can handle a checking-line role.
That is really important on a team that has so many elite forwards: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker are locks to make a scoring line, with Joonas Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau major contenders for the last two roles and the extra forward spot the Sharks use on the power play.
That is why predicting Meier will win the Calder Trophy is not particularly realistic. At this point, it will be hard enough for him to play a major scoring role.
At the same time, he will be alongside two legitimate scoring forwards. The leading candidates to center the third line are Marleau and Hertl. The other will play on the left wing of one of the top three lines. Donskoi and Ward would probably take the right wing of the second and third lines, giving a third line more firepower.
In fact even the fourth line would not be scoring’s kiss of death. If Meier is good enough to keep on the roster for the 2016-17 NHL season but winds up on the fourth line, it is going to be an exceptional enough line that San Jose truly would roll all four in all situations.
The other two forwards on that fourth line are likely to be those called upon to fill in for an injured Hertl during the Stanley Cup finals. It would likely be centered by Chris Tierney who was elevated to the power play. The other wing would almost certainly go to Melker Karlsson, who took the top line’s left wing at full strength for those same games.
If Meier is pushed down from the third line because someone else plays his way onto it, he has Tierney or Karlsson if not both to provide help. Either Tommy Wingels or Matt Nieto would offer legitimate scoring potential from the other wing, as both have had seasons scoring more than a point per three games.
Prediction No. 2: Meier nets at least a dozen goals and maybe a score (20) assists in a primarily checking-line role for the Sharks—provided he plays the full 2016-17 NHL season, of course. Even though he can be sent down to the AHL already, staying on the active roster should not be an issue outside of health.
Meier should get time on a scoring line and the power play when there is more than one forward injured and/or struggling. That will help him put up numbers.
Being on a checking line will also provide him a better defensive matchup when he should have enough offensive line-mate talent to take advantage of it. He may need some adjustment time defensively, but can at minimum be an asset in his own end as well as provide scoring.
Thus while he may not get enough opportunity to compete for the Calder Trophy, he should have enough to be San Jose’s rookie of the year. As for who he skates with, there are over a dozen predictions left for the month…