The New Jersey Devils will officially start a new era of drafting on June 24th, as this will be the first draft in over three decades where at least one of David Conte and Lou Lamoriello are not involved. Due to this fact, it's hard to know exactly what is going through General Manager Ray Shero's mind in terms of his draft strategy. He might be looking for forwards, he might be looking to make some trades, and he also could be looking for some defenders; Victor Mete is an offensive minded player who fits into the last of those three categories and could be someone the Devils look at in the early/mid rounds of the draft.
Who is Victor Mete?
Mete was born on June 7th 1998 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Standing 5'10" tall and weighing anywhere between 165 and 174 pounds (depending on who you ask), he's a bit on the smaller side and will need to do some filling out for the NHL level. He was selected 8th overall in the 2014 OHL Draft by the Owen Sound Attack but did not report to the team; the London Knights would jump at the possibility to acquire a talented defender and sent 6 draft picks to Owen Sound to acquire Mete. His rookie campaign for London would see him post 23 points in 58 games (0.4 PPG), and an additional 8 points in 10 postseason games. This past year, his totals increased to 38 points in 68 games (0.56 PPG) with 11 more in 18 playoff games. Here are his full career stats so far courtesy of Elite Prospects:
Victor has shown good progression so far, but one must wonder why he is being projected as approximately a third rounder with what is being said of him.
Where is Mete Ranked?
NHL.com has Mete ranked as the 74th best North American skater for the upcoming draft, which is a 16 spot fall from his midterm ranking. As there are only 90 choices combined in the first three rounds, I could see Victor slipping in to the 4th round depending on how everything pans out.
Draftsite has him going in the 2nd round (42nd overall) to the Ottawa Senators, one pick after our 41st selection; while this is much higher than his NHL.com ranking, if he projects to play as well as he is spoken of below, then it might be worth snatching him before the Sens do.
What Others Say About Victor Mete
Joseph Aleong had a lot to say about Mete in this article from The Hockey Writers; below are just some snippets from his observation of Mete's game:
A flashy puck-moving defenseman, Mete has had to overcome his small stature to play at such a high level, as he stands just 5'10" and weighs in at just 174 pounds. While this could be a hindrance to Mete, his elite-level skating ability more than compensates for his lack of size. While his great skating allows him to jump into the rush on the attack or keep pace with opposing forwards in the defensive zone, Mete's greatest strength is his offensive instincts. He knows exactly when to jump into the play or make a quick pass, and is already getting time on London's stacked top power play unit due to his lethal passing ability in the offensive zone.
I like how Victor's lack of size is immediately addressed and is compensated for with his excellent skating; the Devils are one of many teams in the NHL that are playing a faster style and an offensive defenseman who can pinch on plays and then skate back to meet the opposition would fit nicely with team dynamics. Having a defender with great offensive instincts and excellent passing would be helpful as well; the Devils don't really have any defenders at the moment who fit that bill.
Mete presents a risky proposition for a drafting team, as his high-profile OHL draft slot and flashy offensive abilities seem poised to keep his draft stock relatively high. His strength and size is a concern, but his well-rounded game and high potential still make him an intriguing prospect to watch in the coming years...While his small size is concerning and could hinder him in the NHL, his offensive skills are good enough for a team to take a chance on him before the end of the third round.
Not the most stunning of endorsements here, but it does seem as though Mete could be an offensive force from the blue line for a team if he reaches his potential.
Bill Placzek from Draftsite had a similar evaluation of Mete's talents and skill set:
Undersized defenseman with great poise, decisions, feet, skill set, and offensive capabilities. He can be in his own end, avoid the forecheck turn up ice and carry or outlet it, and if he passes it he will be the four attacker on the rush in no time. If the transition back to the opposition he has the mobility and speed to still be the back in his end defending. Decent at handling most attackers one on one, boxing them out. Plays with calm and is a terrific puck mover in the offensive zone and the power play. Excellent with his decisions with the puck on the PP. Might be THE best offense man in the class. Needs to get stronger and thicker if he is going to project as an all-around pro.
This gives a bit of insight into his one on one play as well, and while size and strength are an issue at the moment, it seems as though his defensive positioning is sound enough at this point to be able to play against some elite opposition. Whether or not Victor grows into his frame and his game transitions to the NHL can only be found out in due time.
A Little Video
Our first video is from Game 2 of this year's OHL Championship Series and it shows Mete's ability to jump into the play and to finish; while the initial view is a bit blurry and hard to follow, the replay gives a much better view of the goal.
Next is an extended highlight video from a game between Mete's London Knights and the Windsor Spitfires from January of 2015; in this game, Mete scores the third and fourth goals, helping lead the way to a London victory.
An Opinions of Sorts
Victor Mete could be an interesting prospect despite his fall in the North American Skater rankings; while I would not object to choosing him, the problem seems to lie more in where to choose him. He is touted as being offensively talented to the point where some sites have him going as high as in the 2nd round; his draft ranking however seems to place him closer to the end of the 3rd round or even at the start of the 4th round.
I'm a fan of the kid's offensive upside and I think he could fill an organizational need; while Damon Severson and David Schlemko put up some point last year, they're the closest things we have to offense from the back end in this organization and one of those pieces isn't even signed for next season! His vision on the ice and his speed seem to be his two best assets and both could help the Devils on both ends of the ice; while he is obviously a few years away from making an impact at the NHL level, the Devils are still looking to restock the prospect pipeline, so using a pick on a player who needs some time to simmer in juniors and possibly even the AHL isn't a bad thing.
That being said, I could also see the Devils passing on/missing out on Mete due to not only the uncertainty in where he could go, but also due to his lack of size; while he will fill out, he hasn't grown from 5'10" over a couple of seasons and that may be where he tops out height-wise. His point totals/PPG totals in juniors so far aren't outstanding either compared to defenders ranked higher than Victor (including teammate Olli Juolevi, a projected first rounder) and if he can't produce points, there are seemingly better options not only offensively, but defensively as well. Personally, I don't see the Devils choosing Mete because the team has a lesser need for defensive prospects and because I don't foresee his game translating well to the NHL level.
Now I'd like to hear your thoughts on Victor Mete; is he someone you would like to see the Devils pick up in this year's draft? Which round of the draft do you see him going in? Do you see any particular aspects of his game that you like? Any that you dislike? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!