The NHL regular season doesn't start for another 10 days, but the San Jose Sharks have already been dealt a blow.
Forward Timo Meier, San Jose's top prospect and ninth overall selection from the 2015 draft, will miss four weeks with mononucleosis. Meier was projected by many, including yours truly, to make his NHL debut on opening night Oct. 12.
With a solid frame at 6'1", 210 pounds, the physical aspect of the NHL game has never been a concern with Meier. The 19-year old is similar to teammate Tomas Hertl in that way. Hertl made his Sharks debut as a teenager and Meier has a similar build and skill set.
Were he healthy, Meier would have likely been slotted either on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, or on a third line with Patrick Marleau and Mikkel Boedker. In Meier's absence though the Sharks may want to see what they have in his opposite number.
With 28 Sick, Could 82 Fill the Void?
As a top-10 draft pick, the expectations for Meier are sky high. Chances are there will be a lot of No. 28 sweaters filling the SAP Center in the near future. That said, there is also still a chance we will see No. 82 sweaters in the years to come. That jersey number belongs to another first-round pick in 2014 selection Nikolay Goldobin.
Drafted 27th overall, the expectations for Goldobin are far lower. Unlike Meier, physical size has always been a concern with Goldobin. His listed frame of 5'11", 180 pounds is more accurate than it was two years ago, but it still remains a question mark. Goldobin needs to either add muscle or learn to play a more tenacious style. Goldobin may be strong enough to beat slender teammate Melker Karlsson in an arm wrestle, but Karlsson is an effective NHL forward that can play a fourth line role.
While there are major question marks regarding Goldobin's all-around game, the Sharks might be wise to give the soon to be 21-year-old the lineup spot that Meier has vacated. Out of all the other possibilities to take over that spot, including Karlsson, Matt Nieto, Tommy Wingels, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, there is no question that Goldobin provides the most offensive skill. His hands are unbelievable. Just take a look at this youtube video.
While we don't know yet what Pete DeBoer is thinking in terms of line combinations due to the World Cup, there is a good chance the top two forward lines will be as follows:
Tomas Hertl--Joe Thornton--Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi--Logan Couture--Joel Ward
Let's assume DeBoer rolls with these two combinations, that leaves Patrick Marleau and newcomer Mikkel Boedker as leaders of the third line. The only open spot amongst the top-9 forwards is the opposite winger on that third line. With Meier out, it make sense to see what Goldobin can do on an offensively sheltered third line. Those top two combos will see the toughest matchups, leaving what would be an extremely fast and highly skilled third line of Boedker, Marleau and Goldobin to face opponents' third-pair defensemen.
The Sharks' roster is set up to have their third forward unit be a major scoring line. This is likely the best opportunity the Sharks will ever have to see what Goldobin can do with consistent ice time at the NHL level in a role fitting of his talents. It may be a risk considering his defensive committment still hasn't fully developed, but he did share the AHL Barracuda team lead in goals last season with 21. Not to mention his .176 shooting percentage was far and away the best on the Barracuda in 2015-16.
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