Victor Mete was an intriguing prospect when he was drafted in the fourth round in 2016. Over the last year, he has not only raised his stock, he has become one of the top prospects in the Montreal Canadiens‘ system.
Mete will always be compared to his teammate with the London Knights, Vancouver Canucks first-round pick Olli Juolevi. And while the narrative was that Mete is helped by playing with such a skilled partner, he more than holds his own.
This year, when the two played more apart than together, Mete proved that he has game in his own right, and may prove to be a diamond in the rough.
He had more five-on-five points (26 vs. 20) in eight fewer games than Juolevi, and on top of that had a better goals-for percentage. London scored 68.2% of the goals when Mete was on the ice at even strength compared to 58.7% for Juolevi.
Mete’s GF% mark was good for second in the entire OHL among defencemen. Even when adjusted to factor in the strength of the Knights, he was still among the top blue-liners under 20 years of age, ranking 12th in relative GF%.
Mete’s votes were fairly consistent, with all panellists placing him in the top 25. However, the range was quite wide, ranking anywhere from sixth to 25th. Five panelists put him in the top 10, with another 13 placing him in the top 15.
Top 25 Under 25 History
He moves up seven spots from a year ago, and seems poised to crack the top 10 next season, when he gets set for his full-season professional debut.
Mete’s strengths are readily apparent when you watch him play a few shifts. He’s great with the puck, a great skater, and he doesn’t make many mistakes. At 5’10”, the path to success is quite narrow, but Mete does have the possession skills that allow his team to control play when he’s on the ice, setting him up for professional success.
When I’ve seen him play, he always seems to be in control. He’s never seemed to play offence for the sake of playing offence, and in that sense he reminds me of some of the very best playmakers on the back end — more than a fourth-round pick should.
He had six more points from a year ago in 18 fewer games, showing a huge jump in his play and raising his stock in the process. He added another seven points to his totals in 14 playoff games.
He set a career high with 15 goals, and a lot of that is from a shooting percentage that was third among OHL defencemen. Usually that points to an unsustainable amount of luck, but when you look closer, his shots — especially those that become goals — come from very close to the net.
This is where I remind you that, yes, Mete is a defenceman. But with most of the goals coming from inside the faceoff circles, it shows you that he’s a player with a lot of confidence who asserts himself offensively.
If you look at where all of his shots come from, you see more of the same. He takes them from closer to the goalie than you would typically expect from a defenceman.
As you can tell, he generates offence from both sides, whether posted up at the top of the right circle on the power play or at his typical left-side position. His pinches from the left point may remind you of a recently departed defenceman.
Mete does not allow very many chances. He does extremely well at preventing opponents from gaining the defensive zone, which allows him to limit opportunities against and play to his strengths.
At his size, there will always be questions about how his game will translate to the professional level, and his weakness in one-on-one battles could be a worry. However, the way he plays his game allows him to use his other skills to limit how often teams can take advantage of those weaknesses.
His game is driven through his offence, but his defensive game is strong enough that he can maintain his control of the play. He doesn’t often need to cover in his own end, though when he does he is usually capable of doing so.
With opposing players being more experienced, bigger, and stronger in the pros, it may be tough for Mete to be as impactful as he has proven to be in junior. His dominant play and steady improvement are encouraging signs for a strong transition to the next level.
Mete earned an entry-level contract in March after his season ended and joined the St. John’s IceCaps for the AHL playoffs, although he didn’t play in a game. He is one of seven 2016 fourth-round picks to have already signed an NHL contract.
He may be the runner-up to Noah Juulsen in terms of Canadiens defence prospects, and while Juulsen is a solid player, and a former first-round pick, Mete has the skill set to be a potentially game-changing defenceman — albeit with less chance of hitting that potential.
After being cut from Canada’s World Junior team last December, he was named to the Summer Showcase roster and seems to be a good bet to make the team, assuming he has a good start to the season. Only three defencemen are returning from last year’s squad so Mete and Samuel Girard (also cut from the team last year), could help create a very exciting Canadian defence.
With Mete improving every year in the OHL, if he takes another step this year he will be one of the elite defencemen in the league. He was already close last year.
He will be at training camp, but will very likely return to London for what will be his final junior season and will be relied upon to provide leadership (he wore an A in 2016-17) and play important minutes for the team.
It would not surprise me to see Mete make his professional debut if his season ends early. London is usually among the last teams standing in the OHL playoffs, which could limit his opportunities to play for Laval late in the year.
When it comes to fourth-round picks, Mete is well ahead of the curve in terms of potential. His game is made for the new NHL, and he brings a skill set that is something that the Canadiens — or any NHL team — could incorporate very well into a modern system.
The upside is there, even if there are questions about how his game will translate to the professional level. If there weren’t any concerns, he wouldn’t have been a fourth-round pick. But his play since being drafted has definitely raised his profile.
Asking questions is a normal thing of prospects, especially when they are undersized. To Victor Mete’s credit, his play has stood up for itself, and makes him one of the most promising defencemen the Canadiens have.
All statistics courtesy of Prospect-Stats.com