It seems like an eon ago when, in 2017, a young Victor Mete shocked observers by not only making the Montreal Canadiens opening-night roster, but starting the season encamped next to Shea Weber on the top pairing.
Since then, Mete’s road has seen many ups and downs. The defender has been up and down the Canadiens lineup, even seeing a spell in Laval in 2018-19. There was a point where his 127-game goal-scoring drought threatened to drown out all of the other positives to Mete’s game, but fortunately, that narrative is now forever relegated to history.
Today, at a ripe old 21 years of age, Mete’s role and future with the Canadiens is still unclear. The 100th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is a bonafide NHLer but, sandwiched between newly acquired veterans and highly touted prospects, how far can he go in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge?
The panel and voters saw Mete either as a valuable — but not blue-chip — asset for the organization, ranking him in the 5-8 range, or considered him surplus to what was required at the NHL level while still possessing value (10th to 14th).
Top 25 Under 25 History
Mete’s rank in the T25U25 has mirrored his career trajectory. Ranked 19th after being drafted, Mete rose as high as fourth as he earned himself a regular position on the Canadiens blueline. Since then, with his roster position in jeopardy thanks to improved defender depth and continued development from the likes of Alexander Romanov and Mattias Norlinder, Mete’s position accordingly dropped — first to sixth, and now to seventh.
History of #7
|2014||Jacob de la Rose|
Mete is one of the better puck movers currently on the Canadiens blueline. It was the skillset that first earned him his NHL spot, and it is the skillset that keeps him in consideration for the roster today. It’s comforting to know that Mete has not rested on his laurels. His poise, positioning, and decision-making have all improved since entering the league, both with and without the puck.
Most of Mete’s strong suits are on exhibit when looking at the sequence leading up to his second NHL goal.
Before the footage starts, the Canadiens gain the offensive zone without resistance because Mete’s speed turns a two-on-two into an odd-man rush. As the play continues and the Habs play along the perimeter, Mete drifts back into a defensive position, but seeing three red shirts already lined up at the blueline and Jeff Petry intending to drift down low, #53 moves further back all the way into the neutral zone. Now, as Petry takes the puck and centres it, Mete is off the radar, capable of both playing as a safety valve and exploiting open ice.
Yes, it’s a fortunate bounce that puts the puck into the slot, but it’s Mete’s attributes that not only create the sequence to begin with, but also renders him capable of taking full advantage.
Of course, Mete’s diminutive stature will be the focal point for his detractors, but the young defender has largely learned to use his foot speed to compensate. Now, Mete needs to take it one step further and learn to anticipate the play rather than respond to it, especially in the neutral and defensive zones.
As an example of this, in one high-profile incident from the bubble, Mete was beat by Brandon Tanev to spot the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-1 lead. But the goal wasn’t caused by Mete’s stature letting him down, it was caused by his fixation on the puck carrier even when not in a dangerous spot, an inability to predict what would happen after the play broke down, and a failure to correctly identify key patches of ice to defend.
It is hard to say where Victor Mete goes from here. He certainly has the talent to surpass his current status as a borderline third-pairing defender. However, it will take a supreme effort to supplant those ahead of him — Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, and Brett Kulak — in the depth chart. Moreover, being on the third pairing and away from Weber and Petry means that Mete will not be able to play a game style that aligns with his talents.
In order to have a future with the Canadiens, Mete needs to show something this season beyond what he’s demonstrated thus far. Either he will have to make the most of the limited opportunities afforded by the coaching staff, or he will have to play his way off the third pairing. If neither of these happen, it is likely that Mete, for all his promise, will likely find his upward trajectory blocked in Montreal.
One final note to close with: through his first three NHL seasons, Mete has tallied 0.59 points per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5. Over that same span of time, Samuel Girard, recently signed to a seven-year contract extension worth $35 million, has tallied 0.76.