With their second pick in the first round, the Montreal Canadiens chose another Slovak forward, Filip Mešár. What stands out with Mešár just by looking at his player profile is that he has played professional hockey for two seasons with Poprad already, and while the stats from both years are similar, it is important to remember that Poprad went to the final the first year, and wasn’t as strong in 2021-22, explaining some of the metrics on the stat line.
Montreal jokingly said they’d get a whole country of new fans when selecting Mešár. Some saw it as a sure way to make the top pick, Juraj Slafkovský, comfortable in Montreal. However, prior to the draft, in the Eyes On The Prize consensus ranking, Mešár ended up 26th, exactly where Montreal took him. He was drafted on his own merit.
It is easy to spot the offensive upside in his game. He is small and plays with great skill, and no doubt he would have been higher if he were bigger, much the same as Lane Hutson. As one of the better skaters in the draft, it is in the transition game and the on the rush where he shines.
The pro experience opens up a few good opportunities for his future development. Having been picked in the first round, Montreal can ignore a European contract and request he play in the Canadian Hockey League or even the AHL, while still having the four-year evaluation period granted for prospects picked out of Europe.
Eleven spots separate Mešár’s top vote of eight from his low rank at 19. Entering the list at number 10 is solid for him, especially considering how many other good players and prospects are in the Canadiens’ system.
History of #10
|2017||Jacob de la Rose|
While his skating is good, even very good, it is his hockey IQ that stands out the most. Being small and having played versus men already, he has learned to play the game at a high pace and read the game well in order to not be hemmed in along the boards, or crushed against them. He thinks the game well and can slow down the action at his will, setting up plays to high-danger areas. Sometimes he does this a bit too much; there are situations where he should shoot instead.
Mešár can shoot, he just often chooses not to. He really should use it more often as he has a quick release. He uses his smarts to get alone and when he receives a pass from a teammate he usually puts the puck in the net with a sharp wrister. He prefers shooting from an open position, where he can still cleanly beat goaltenders, but he really should trust his shot more and shoot from behind defenders, using them as screens to make it even more difficult for the goalies.
Size. It always comes down to size. Mešár has time to grow, but he needs to grow a bit taller or a bit stronger, and preferably both. There are smaller player in the NHL; he will just have to look across the locker room in camp to see Cole Caufield. It should give him an incentive to work hard and succeed, but the jury is still out on how he can translate his game into the NHL at 5’9”.
His defensive game is also lacking, and one would hope that his hockey sense can help him out in the reads in his own zone, and that a few extra kilos can help him in the cycle game as well. The good thing is that he became more physical and played better in the defensive areas of the ice the longer the season went on for Poprad, playing his best games in the playoffs.
It is tough to project Mešár. He wants to play centre, but there is a question if he can play that role in the NHL. Determining the best position for his development will be part of the four-year evaluation the Habs will make of the skilful Slovak.
As for where that development will take place, it seems that the Kitchener Rangers could get a very skilled player this season. While the AHL is an option, the fact that there are a lot of players already penciled into the top two lines, the CHL should be the choice.
In the podcast attached, Matej Deraj points out that there were European teams inquiring about Mešár’s availability, but it seems that Montreal has opted to keep him in Canada for the time being. Based on his debut on this list, it appears that everyone is confident that he can progress no matter which path he takes, and look forward to seeing how the next year will go.
Matej Deraj and Jakub Homoľa joins the podcast to talk about Mešár’s development the last two years, the projection of his game and give their opinion on his future play.