The most pleasant surprise on the Montreal Canadiens’ blue line this season is Victor Mete, 19, who was drafted by the Habs 100th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Formerly with the London Knights, he scored 44 points in 50 games last season and was a key member of London’s Memorial Cup-winning team in 2016. Last spring, he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Montreal.
The rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement will force Canadiens management to make a choice. This week, the 19-year-old played his ninth game against the Florida Panthers. If Mete dresses for another game, he will burn the first year of his entry-level contract and be one year closer to becoming a restricted free agent. The alternative is to return him to the Knights.
The Canadiens announced today that he will suit up against the LA Kings on Thursday.
Head coach Claude Julien confirms no lineup changes from the group that bested the Florida Panthers back on Tuesday. #GoHabsGo
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) October 26, 2017
Mete and Weber
Mete has been skating with Shea Weber on the top defensive pair since the beginning of the season. The reason for this is, in part, due to Mete’s skill, but most of it is due to necessity. The Canadiens lack a left-handed defender who can play with Weber while David Schlemko is sidelined after undergoing surgery to remove a bone fragment from his hand. Schlemko has yet to suit up for the Habs and won’t for another three to four weeks.
For a team inexplicably committed to the defensive style of the past, Mete looks and plays like a defenseman of the future. He is a smallish, left-shot defenseman who can skate like the wind and has a good first pass. While he was projected to be a top-six defender in the NHL, no one imagined he would be able to play so well so soon. He has the type of puck-moving ability that complements Weber, similar to what Roman Josi did with Weber in Nashville.
While Mete has just two points in nine games and is a minus-5, he is playing on a team which collectively has allowed 34 goals against. Both his points came on the power play during the disastrous west coast road trip last week — the first was an assist on Weber’s goal against the San Jose Sharks and the next was three nights later when he set up Brendan Gallagher in Anaheim against the Ducks.
Youth on the Blueline
Mete is one of three 19-year olds playing defense in the NHL this season. Early Calder trophy candidate Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins made his NHL debut in the 2017 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. He played on the top line last year with Zdeno Chara and had three points in six games. This year he has seven points in seven games, playing on the second defensive line.
Another 19-year-old that has impressed is former Canadiens prospect Mikhail Sergachev. Acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade that sent forward Jonathan Drouin to the Habs on June 15, Sergachev has nine points in ten games.
Maturity Beyond His Years
What has surprised fans the most this year is Mete’s maturity. He makes smart decisions. His speed allows him to pinch on offense without fear of getting caught. His strong stick work has allowed Mete to mitigate some of his perceived weaknesses. Mete credits his partner and veteran Shea Weber.
I think it’s been a pretty good adjustment. Being paired with Shea the whole way so far, he’s taught me a lot. That made it an easier transition for me, because he’s a very experienced NHL defenseman… Coming in here was easier just because I was with him and I was able to learn things sooner rather than later. It’s been a smooth transition.
Criminologist by training. Hab fan for life. Aspiring Beer League hockey star.