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You’re only a rookie once: the pressures of living up to the hype

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Some new faces join the big club this season and set their sights on Lord Stanley

NHL: Preseason-Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens’ opening night roster has been set and at only 19 years old, Victor Mete, a Toronto native, will be suiting up in the bleu-blanc-rouge, and how sweet it is. Mete was a big surprise at this year’s training camp, stunning coaches and teammates alike with his maturity and skill set both on and off the ice.

“For me it’s the way he picks up the puck and the way he goes back with confidence. The way he goes back with confidence, he’s not really in a position to get hit hard; he’s in a position to make a play instead of just rimming it. That’s a skill only NHL defencemen have. Not even all of them have it.” - Habs’ captain Max Pacioretty discussing Victor Mete

Mete may be the biggest surprise out of this year’s camp, but there’s another set of skates lacing up to start the season in Montreal for the first time. Charles Hudon is four years Mete’s senior, but this is the first time since being drafted in 2012 that he will be starting the season with the big club.

NHL: Preseason-Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Hudon is another exceptionally skilled player, and with a new coaching staff in place, he was able to shine throughout training camp and has finally cracked the roster.

“He’s progressively gotten better every year. Every year he’s come here and he’s been better and better and I think, finally, he’s at the level of the NHL. He’s a good hockey player.” - Habs’ goaltender Carey Price on Charles Hudon

But with this promotion comes great responsibility. Both players are different in their own way, whether it be age, experience, position, or personality. However both will face similar challenges this season.

Neither Mete nor Hudon is a stranger to the pressures of playing hockey at an elite level. The pressures that come with playing hockey in the city of Montreal, however, may be a bit new for both of these athletes. And while both have had a glimpse of what Montreal is like, Habs fans are passionate and care more about the sport of hockey than I could ever put into words. With this passion come immense pressure to succeed.

"The Canadiens have had so much success in the past that the fans expect the team to win. You can't make a mistake. You have to be ready," - Joe Morrow, Montreal Canadiens defenceman

Now, you may sit there and think that this type of pressure doesn’t matter to an elite athlete, and you might be right. But factor in additional perceived pressures from development staff, coaching staff, teammates, friends and family, and it can certainly add up. In addition, elite athletes place immense pressure on themselves.

Rookies like Mete and Hudon likely feel increased pressure to perform both externally and internally, what with worrying about fans and coaching staff, as well as needing to continue to prove their worth to their teammates and to themselves. These kinds of pressures can affect concentration, task focus, and self-concept, leading to performance issues on the ice.

For Mete, playing with a veteran like Shea Weber will boost both his confidence and vision. Fingers crossed that it also improves his slapshot. Hudon has been playing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen, just in his second year on the roster, has shown exceptional poise. Plekanec, drafted 11 years prior to Hudon, has played his entire career in Montreal. Both Lehkonen and Plekanec will benefit Hudon in different ways; Lehkonen supplies creativity and a ‘I was just where you are’ approach, while Plekanec brings the wisdom that only 16-years with the same club can provide.

The added benefit for both rookies, and I think most Habs fans would agree, is that they seem wise beyond their years. Not only do they have incredible on-ice vision, they display a calm demeanor, which will go a long way in the wild market that is Montreal.

It is going to be a great season. Under new coaching staff, I feel that we will finally get to see what our youngsters are capable of. And while questions may linger for some, I believe that these two are more than ready to catch the torch.