Perhaps he’s benefiting from recency bias, perhaps he’s benefiting from being on a Memorial Cup-winning team, or perhaps he’s just plain good. No matter the reason, Victor Mete is being lauded as a legitimate defensive prospect in this year’s draft, and with good reason.
He’s a smaller defender — 5’10” and 165 pounds — which many team still shy away from. It’s possible that this is one of the reasons he hasn’t gotten as much attention as other defenders outside the “big three” of Chychrun, Juolevi, and Sergachev. Still, even on a team with Juolevi, Mete has had a standout performance this season.
Mete put up 38 points (8 goals, 30 assists) in 68 regular season games, and 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) during London’s 18-game OHL playoff run.
One of Mete’s biggest strengths is his skating, which enables him to join the rush easily. He’s agile, moves the puck well, and sees the ice well enough to negate most concerns about whether he is too small to be an effective defenseman.
His accuracy is also impressive, both with his one-timer and his wrist shot, though he could stand to get more creative about when and where he uses them.
His puck control is the kind that teams are searching for in mobile defenseme. Mete protects the puck well at both ends of the ice, and it’s an area where he has the potential to get even better. His vision and top-notch hockey sense allow him to know when to jump into the play and when to hang back.
He’s solid defensively, relied on heavily by London in important situations. This is another area where his skating is an asset — it enables him to maintain good gap control and win one-on-one situations with his opponents. He’s poised and patient, another product of his hockey sense.
Mete is ranked 74th by Central Scouting in their final North American skater rankings, but ESPN’s Corey Pronman has him 42nd in his Top 100 Prospects article, and the buzz from many scouts recently is that Mete has been underrated this season.
While he likely won’t go in the first round, don’t expect to see Mete around after the second unless teams continue the tradition of shying away from small defenders, in which case he’ll make quite a steal for someone.
Mete shows serious pro-upside and likely projects as a top-four defenseman in the NHL, though predicting where prospects will end up is an incredibly inexact process, especially for defensemen.
Teams looking to draft Mete are likely to want him to add muscle, and while his speed is likely to allow him to evade physical play in some situations, bulking up a bit isn’t a bad idea.
He’s a strong skater, which could potentially change if he pushes his body too far, too fast, but as long as he adds that muscle in a smart way and keeps honing his skating skills, it shouldn’t become an issue. Adding strength will also help him improve his play in board battles and in clearing in front of the net.
Fortunately, Mete has a great place to develop with the London Knights. The franchise consistently turns out solid NHL players — two alumni, Chris Tierney and Olli Maatta, are facing each other in the Stanley Cup Final right now, while another, Josh Anderson, won the AHL’s Calder Cup last night with the Lake Erie Monsters.
It’s a safe bet that whatever team drafts Mete can rest easy about how he’ll develop in the OHL over the next couple of years, and that they will be pleased with the player they get out of it.