Nineteen year old defenceman Victor Mete is a one young player who has garnered a lot of attention this pre-season. The Montreal Canadiens have a dilemma with respect to Mete as he is in that age gap where he can only be returned to the OHL’s London Knights or remain with the Habs. The fourth round (100th overall) pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has been paired with Montreal’s top defenceman Shea Weber for most of the pre-season akin to their version of THUNDER and LIGHTNING.
In my estimation, Mete will most certainly spend the opening portion of the NHL regular season with Montreal.
Mete is an elite skater even at the NHL level. His closing speed is unmatched by any of the Canadiens defencemen. Having watched Mete since his OHL career began as a 16-year-old, he has always had superior skating ability and his puck-handling skills have grown by leaps and bounds.
Victor is listed at a generous 5-foot-9-inches tall and 181 pounds. Size has been his Achilles heel throughout his junior career and will be more of an issue as a pro. Mete lacks the physical makeup to move opposing forwards off the puck and his pairing with Weber is an attempt to balance this shortcoming.
This pairing has worked to a point, but when Montreal has a breakdown low in their own zone, Mete is guilty of running around in the games that I have seen this pre-season. That said, he has improved his ability to box out opposing forwards in the OHL last season.
With the Canadiens lack of depth at defence and the departure of Mikhail Sergachev, there is a spot open in the top seven. Veteran defenceman David Schlemko and 40-year-old Mark Streit are marginal bottom seven players at this stage of their careers. As such, Montreal is giving Mete every opportunity to make the team out of training camp.
Mete is a decent first pass defenceman and hasn’t looked out of place, albeit in the preseason. He along with rookie Noah Juulsen are the top rookie defence prospects in the Canadiens organization. If Juulsen had not been injured, he may have had a bigger role going forward.
It has been said a million times that it never hurts a player’s development to send him back to junior. This is especially true for defenceman, the toughest position to play and learn at the NHL level.
With the thin talent level at the bottom four defenceman this season in Montreal, it must be tempting for Canadiens management to want to keep Mete with the big club. But it is my opinion that a 19-year-old defenceman making the leap directly to the NHL is a rarity and Mete would be best served returning to junior hockey where he will log huge minutes with a London Knights team that has few veterans on the blueline.