Throughout most of the offseason, people in Montreal were wondering which defenseman would be paired with Shea Weber in 2017-18.
Most figured it would be Andrei Markov, but he left the team to join the KHL. Some speculated that it would be David Schlemko, who the club acquired from Vegas. No one predicted that it would be 19-year-old rookie Victor Mete, but that’s exactly how things have panned out.
When head coach Claude Julien paired Mete with Weber on the first day of training camp, it surprised everyone. Now, more than two weeks into training camp, Mete is still on the first pairing and he hasn’t looked out of place.
What makes this so surprising is his age combined with the fact that he was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. It’s rare to see players that are selected that late play in the league as teenagers, but Mete seems to have a shot.
In Montreal’s preseason game against Toronto on Monday, Mete picked up the primary assist on Jeff Petry‘s power play goal.
“He was one of the bright lights in our game tonight,” Julien said of Mete after Monday’s loss, per the Montreal Gazette. “He handled himself against lots of NHL players. I thought he was good. He moved the puck well, he skated well. You can see that he’s gaining confidence at this level and it’s nice to see that.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound blue liner hasn’t been overwhelmed during his second professional training camp. Whether or not he’s done enough to earn himself a spot with the big club remains to be seen, but Montreal’s only other option is to send him back to OHL London if they don’t keep him around.
The Habs could opt to give him a nine-game audition during the regular season without burning the first year of his entry-level contract.