Mercifully, the trade deadline is over and the focus can now turn to the stretch run as Montreal tries to hold on to top spot in the Atlantic. This article changes the channel and reviews the work that really builds a contending team in the long term, namely the drafting and development of players. Today, we look at the Canadiens’ 2016 fourth round pick (No. 100 overall): Defenceman Victor Mete of the defending Memorial Cup Champion London Knights.
Mete has many strengths but none of those compare to his elite skating ability. He has been fairly described by many scouts as one of the best skaters in the 2016 NHL Draft. Mete has also been praised for his puck moving skills, superior instincts on when (and when not) to join the rush and his overall passing skills, both on breakouts from the defensive zone and from the point.
This skill set would normally cause a player to be selected in the first or at least second round but there is concern about Mete’s size and strength. Mete is 5’10” and weighs in around 175 lbs. These factors caused teams to pass on him until the Habs scooped him up in the fourth round. NHL teams could not get comfortable with his ability to clear the crease and defend against the cycle at the next level (some scouts also think his shot from the point needs work). On draft day, teams simply could not decide whether the Knights’ D-man was the next Ryan Ellis or yet another skilled Junior defender who could not adapt to the more physical level of play in the NHL.
To be clear, at the Junior level, Mete has done all of the above adequately, although the referenced weaknesses are certainly not his strong suits. His Junior career has been outstanding. Drafted 8th overall by the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL Draft, he was traded to the Knights after failing to report. In his rookie year, he was selected to the Second All-Rookie Team after posting 23 points. In his sophomore season, he posted 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists) and a plus 53 rating. His role was expanded during their successful Memorial Cup run last Spring and he responded with an excellent performance in the OHL Playoffs and the Memorial Cup Tournament.
After an outstanding start to the 2016/17 season, Mete earned an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior Camp but was included in the first round of cuts. As of December 9th, Mete had already posted 35 points. However, shortly after returning from Team Canada’s camp, Mete suffered an injury that kept him out for the better part of 20 games. After only recently returning to the London Knights lineup, he has posted a total of 43 points for the year (15 goals, 28 assists) in 47 games.
Mete is an intriguing prospect. This writer lives in London and has the opportunity to watch him fairly often. His skating ability is almost Coffey-esque, so smooth that, at times, he seems to glide by forecheckers effortlessly. If the reasonable concerns about his size and strength are to be overcome, it will likely be due to superior positioning (his skating is that good) and, no doubt, much hard work in the gym. Mete will have to work hard to compete in those dirty areas at the next level. However, his ability to beat the opposition to the puck has been beneficial in the OHL. His elite skating skills will most likely continue to pay dividends in this area at the NHL level.
With the trade deadline now in the recent past, there has been much hand-wringing about deals that were (or were not) completed. The chatter will soon recede and from hereon, hockey pundits will be rightly focused on the late season pushes for playoff spots and positions. Yet, in the midst of all this noise, it is worth remembering how teams become perennial contenders in a salary cap environment. Overwhelmingly, teams succeed based on their ability to draft and develop a steady pipeline of young talent. Mete has a skill set that is intriguing. He has a very positive upside and is well worth a fourth round selection. Provided he can overcome the concerns about his size and strength, Victor Mete is a talented young defenceman that may prove to be yet another Trevor Timmins mid-round ‘Diamond in the Rough’.