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Lucky number 10

Victor Mete is facing an important crossroads as he approaches his tenth NHL game of the season

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - Victor Mete may not have a permanent place to stay in Montreal just yet, but that doesn't mean the young defenseman isn't focused on Thursday night's tilt against Los Angeles at the Bell Centre.

The question came up after practice on Wednesday because, if he is to suit up to face the Kings, the 19-year-old would be playing in his 10th NHL game of the season - which would result in his NHL entry-level contract kicking in this season.

"Hopefully, I can get into the lineup tomorrow and make it 10 games. That'd be good," admitted Mete, the Canadiens' fourth-round pick (100th overall) in 2016. "I know the rules that come with it. Hopefully, tomorrow I'm in the lineup and I can surpass [the 10 games]."

The blue-liner has been earning praise for his steady play on the backend alongside assistant captain Shea Weber, and credits the towering defenseman with helping ensure his transition to the NHL has been as seamless as can be expected.

"I think it's been a pretty good adjustment. Being paired with Shea the whole way so far, he's taught me a lot. That made it an easier transition for me, because he's a very experienced NHL defenseman," Mete said of Weber, who scored two goals in Tuesday night's game against the Panthers. "Coming in here was easier just because I was with him and I was able to learn things sooner rather than later. It's been a smooth transition."

In nine games, Mete has averaged an impressive 19:41 of ice time, the vast majority of it with Weber by his side. Earlier in the month, head coach Claude Julien inserted Mete on the man advantage - again pairing him up with Weber - and No. 53 now has the second-most power play minutes on the team among defensemen. He also earned his first NHL point on the power play, an assist on Weber's second-period goal against the Sharks last Tuesday.

Video: Victor Mete on his NHL experience so far

In looking back on Mete's first nine games with the big club, Julien didn't appear to have any doubts about the Woodbridge, ON's ability to contribute.

"I think he's continued to do his job. I don't see someone who's trying to do more than he should, which is a good thing for him," the coach explained ahead of the Canadiens' game against the Panthers on Tuesday. "He's playing well, he's playing with some confidence and I think it's up to him to keep playing his game. 

"He's still here and he deserves to be here. So long as he keeps playing the way he has, he could end up staying here the rest of the season," he went on. "We have the luxury of being able to change our minds if ever we feel things aren't going well, but talking about it now, he's headed in the right direction."

Mete pointed out that the biggest difference he's seen in his NHL adventure so far has been the speed of the game, and the impact that can have on one's mental approach on the ice.

"It's faster. You have to make your decisions faster. Before you get the puck, you have to see what you're going to do already," outlined Mete, who said that his time with the OHL's London Knights prepared him well for the NHL experience as a whole. "If you have to think about it, your options will all go away. [You have to] be prepared."

If the Canadiens decide that Mete should stay in Montreal and not go back to Junior, there will be decisions to be made on his living situation. General manager Marc Bergevin suggested that he might try to arrange for Mete to live with a veteran teammate, as Brendan Gallagher did with Josh Gorges earlier in his career.

There is another option, however…

"I have an open room in my place, he's welcome to do that," Bergevin concluded with a laugh. "Not sure he'll like that, though."

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