London News & Search
Victor Mete is ready to play a lot of minutes for the London Knights again.
He’ll be leaned on heavily, especially since fellow defencemen Olli Juolevi, Brandon Crawley and Mitch Vande Sompel appear to be heading to the pro ranks this fall.
And the fourth-year rearguard won’t mind doing it all with a C sewn on his sweater, either. He is the most likely candidate to succeed JJ Piccinich as team captain.
“I think that would be an honour, of course,” the Montreal Canadiens prospect said as Knights training camp kicked off Monday at Budweiser Gardens. “I have some experience being an assistant last year (along with graduated forward Owen MacDonadl) and seeing what other guys do to be leaders (including his captains Max Domi, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak).
“Hopefully — and maybe — I’ll get that opportunity.”
The Knights are trending toward one of the younger teams in the league, by average age. But they made a big splash at last year’s trade deadline and Mete believes it’s possible to be one of the OHL’s elite clubs once more.
“I think we’ll have a solid team again this year and hopefully, we can go for it again,” he said. “We have a lot of guys coming back and a bunch of good young guys, who may only have (limited) games in the league, but we’ll help them get used to it.
“It’s going to be another good season, another long season and we’ll do the best we can.”
Mete will find out later this week if he’ll play in one of the two exhibition games against the Sarnia Sting. Then he’ll join the Habs next Wednesday.
His goal is to get in an exhibition game — something made more possible after former first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev, the Windsor Spitfires top defender, was moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin.
“It’s tough to see, but it benefits me,” the 19-year-old from Woodbridge said. “It’s one less guy now (to compete for a job with). I have to go out there and prove I’m able to compete at that level.”
He already showed Hockey Canada earlier this month he is a viable world junior candidate for the upcoming tournament in Buffalo. He joined Knights centres Cliff Pu and Robert Thomas at the summer showcase held in Plymouth.
“It would be a great experience for all of us,” Mete said. “To represent your country with guys you’ve played with pretty much your whole junior career would be special. And not making it last year, my (personal) goal is to make that team this time and live every young Canadian boy’s dream growing up by playing in the world juniors.”
Mete is one of the best young skaters around. But he still isn’t the biggest guy in the world.
So he has heard the same thing since he entered the junior ranks — get stronger and improve your slapper.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s another thing I have to work on. I just keep at it and hopefully, it gets better. I worked on everything this summer — getting stronger off and on the ice, get ready for these camps and another big season.”
He scored 15 goals in 50 games last year. He would’ve had 20, easily, if he wasn’t sidelined from taking an errant puck in the head.
Not many defenders can contain him when he jumps into the rush. This year, his extra gear could make him nearly unstoppable in the offensive end.
“Everyone is saying keep playing your game and don’t change anything,” he said. “You play the way you can, help the team, and you hope you can contribute at the next level.”
And, of course, lead the way at this one.
Tuesday: Black vs. White, 8 a.m.; Gold vs. Green, 9:40 a.m.; White vs. Gold, 1 p.m.; Black vs. Green, 3 p.m.
Wednesday: White vs. Green, 8 a.m.; Black vs. Gold, 9:40 a.m.; White vs. Gold, 1 p.m.; Black vs. Green, 3 p.m.
Thursday: Green vs. Gold, 9 a.m.
Friday: Exhibition game, vs. Sarnia, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: at Sarnia, 7:05 p.m.
London News & Search