There are two prominent storylines when it comes to Montreal Canadiens defenceman Victor Mete. The first is whether he is the right guy to play beside Shea Weber. The second is the fact that he has yet to score a goal in the National Hockey League.
In a lot of ways, the two storylines intersect. Mete’s offensive numbers don’t appear to be what you would want from a player in the top four. People often miscast Mete as an offensive defenceman who cannot score. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Players can generate offence in a lot of ways and Mete is part of a breed of player who are redefining what we should expect from offensive defencemen.
There’s one play in particular that sticks out when I think of Mete’s offensive abilities.
This clip may not seem like much but it shows Mete’s instincts in the offensive zone. We know he can skate, and we know that’s probably his biggest strength. But in this clip, he gets into the zone, then he evades the defender, and then he puts the puck on the stick of a teammate in a prime scoring location.
That’s not the only way that Mete can create offence.
Victor Mete has some wheels man. pic.twitter.com/dX1RyhF4in— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 8, 2019
In this clip, Mete creates his own chance with his speed and gets a good scoring chance. If you watch Mete play, his skating is definitely an asset and what makes him stand out on the ice.
It’s not coincidence that both of these clips came in February, two months after he was recalled from a short stint with the Laval Rocket. In seven games with Laval, he had a goal and three assists for four points and seemed to find his confidence offensively. His game had a noticeable shift upon his return to the NHL level.
If you look at clips from Mete’s career before the recall, you will see glimpses of that offensive game, but he didn’t consistently use it with the Canadiens. That is to be expected when a player comes right to the NHL from junior and at 20, he still needed (and needs) to grow.
It wasn’t just the eye test that showed Mete’s growth. He started generating more high danger scoring chances when he was on the ice. The Canadiens increased their high danger chances when Mete was on the ice from 11.75 to 13.55 per 60 minutes, an increase of over 15%. He did play more after his recall, which actually makes these numbers more impressive because it is on a per-minute basis and not raw totals. Mete averaged four minutes more per game after being recalled. Nine of his 13 points also came during that time.
In the AHL, Mete did score his first regular season professional goal, something he has yet to do in 120 NHL games. In his AHL goal, he showed another part of his game: the ability to jump into the play when his team controls possession in the offensive zone.
Victor Mete gets his first professional goal, he crashes the net from the point and fires the puck over Bachman, McCarron gets his fourth helper of the day.— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 2, 2018
Congrats @vmete98! pic.twitter.com/Mv7MPpxpgo
He jumped into the play, and was able to have the skill to beat the goaltender and cash in on the opportunity. It is something he did in the pre-season as well, when he scored then showing similar traits.
All of these things are reasons why Mete is a defenceman that so many people are hoping can break out offensively. The player on the ice hasn’t matched the numbers he has put up to date, and that is why people continue to be optimistic about the player after two seasons. Mete just turned 21 in June, and there’s a lot more to his game that just doesn’t show up in his statistics.
Eventually, Mete will score at the NHL level and when he does it, his numbers may finally match up with the skillset and things he does on the ice. He may never be a significant goal scorer at the NHL level but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t provide his team with offence.