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NHL 18 ,Victor Mete keeps proving he can play in the NHL

The 19-year-old Canadiens rookie was told to find his own place after he played his 10th NHL game this season, meaning the first year of his entry-level contract automatically kicked in with him earning a base salary of US$650,000.  

Mete was paired with David Schlemko for the Canadiens’ 10-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at the Bell Centre and they were both plus-5 with Mete logging 16:58 of ice time. It’s the most ice time the rookie has had since playing 18:26 in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre on Oct. 26.

On Sunday, Brandon Davidson was claimed off waivers from Montreal by the Edmonton Oilers, but the Canadiens still have eight defencemen on their 23-man roster, and Jakub Jerabek and Joe Morrow were made healthy scratches against the Red Wings to make room for Mete.

Mete has proven he can play defence in the NHL at 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds with feet that move as quickly as his brain with his impressive hockey IQ. After the Canadiens struck out with first-round draft picks Nathan Beaulieu (2011) and Jarred Tinordi (2010), and traded 2016 first-round pick Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Jonathan Drouin, Mete is looking like a diamond in the rough on the blue line, picked up in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft (100th overall). It’s too bad for the Canadiens that Beaulieu didn’t have Mete’s hockey sense.

If Mete is sent back to junior, it won’t be because he didn’t play well. Instead, it will be because of the numbers game and the fact if the rookie plays 40 NHL games this season, he will move one year closer to free agency.

After Saturday’s morning skate, coach Claude Julien said he doesn’t want Mete to change his game, which means skating with the puck and jumping into the offence when he sees an opportunity. Mete picked up an assist against the Red Wings, giving him four for the season while he’s still looking for his first NHL goal. Mete has averaged 14:47 of ice time and is plus-5 for the season.

“We don’t want to put the handcuffs on him, we don’t want to hold him back,” Julien said about Mete. “I think it’s important that he plays his game, and we like the way he plays. So we’re encouraging him to play that way. Even when he hasn’t played in a lot of occasions, it hasn’t been because he hasn’t played well.”

Mete admitted it was a difficult adjustment when Julien cut back on his ice time after he started the season with Shea Weber on the No. 1 pairing, playing more than 21 minutes for four straight games at one point. After being a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Nov. 22 in Nashville, Mete had only 11:20 and 6:02 of ice time the next two games and then was made a healthy scratch again before playing back-to-back games against the Red Wings Thursday in Detroit (11:49 of ice time) and Saturday at the Bell Centre.

“You just have to be in the mindset of stay ready, be prepared, watch the game, and I try to be in the mind of someone else,” Mete said. “If I was him right now, what would I do? Kind of keep the brain going.”

Mete said he’s trying not to think about what the future might hold for him this season.

“I’m here right now, so my mind is just focused on here and playing well and try and hopefully stay,” he said. “If anything else happens, then I’ll just take it from there.”

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