ST. CATHERINES, Ontario -- Victor Mete thought his dream of playing for Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship was dead after making the Montreal Canadiens out of training camp this season.
He says he wondered earlier in the season if his final opportunity to play in the tournament had been superseded by his surprising rise to prominence with the Canadiens.
"Obviously my goal coming into the year was to make the NHL and I accomplished that, playing my first 27 games there," Mete said Tuesday after reporting to Canada's selection camp, which runs through Saturday. "Growing up, my goal was always to play in the World Juniors after watching it every single year over Christmas."
Mete, 19, had four points, all assists, in 27 games with the Canadiens, but was a healthy scratch the past two games.
"We've made the decision to allow Victor Mete to join Team Canada's Selection Camp to give him an opportunity to participate in a very beneficial experience for his development," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Monday. "The World Junior Hockey Championship is a very elite and very competitive tournament, and this can be a very rewarding opportunity for a young player."
Video: Victor Mete gets the pressure of playing tonight
Upon finishing with Canada, Mete could return to the Canadiens or be sent back to his junior team, London of the Ontario Hockey League.
Mete, one of the first cuts at WJC selection camp last year, turns his attention now to making Canada's roster for this year's tournament, which will be held in Buffalo from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
He joined 32 other players Tuesday for the first day of on-ice workouts.
Mete says he trusts the development plan the Canadiens have for him and was not completely surprised by the assignment after his opportunities with the Canadiens lessened.
"It's cool to be here now and, hopefully, I can make the team and win a gold medal because that's probably the biggest thing I've wanted since I've been a kid," Mete said.
Canada coach Dominique Ducharme feels Mete's experience starting the season in the NHL will be an asset. Apart from the one game forward Alex Formenton played for the Ottawa Senators on Oct 7, Mete is the only player in camp with NHL experience.
"I think Victor already had that [professional mentality], he's a great kid and a mature young man," Ducharme said. "We saw that all along. But going through those moments is always a positive for a player and experience you can't buy. You've got to go through those things and that's great for him. He's a bit quicker, he's got more experience, he's stronger, he's got the same vision. He's got great skill. But a year at that age is huge."
After selection camp in 2016, Mete expressed disappointment at not making Canada's WJC roster, but he returned to London and went on to tie for the team lead among defensemen with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 50 games.
"I was a little upset last year, but now I get the opportunity here to make the team and put that behind me," Mete said.
Selected in the fourth round (No. 100) by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL Draft, Mete said he realizes how far he has come in a short time, surprising in training camp to earn an NHL spot and now holding a chance to achieve his dream of playing at the World Juniors.
"I think it's just been taking everything day by day," Mete said. "I haven't been looking past anything at all, just doing what I have to do today and then focus on tomorrow when the day is done. I've just not been looking in the future, just stay humble where you are and keep moving forward. Don't get ahead of yourself."
Typically, players compete in the World Junior Championship before moving on to the NHL but Mete is content to do things in reverse, hopeful that his NHL experience is an asset that will serve him well in this camp.
"I've learned a lot since I've been in the NHL," he said. "The speed is way faster up there and the guys are way bigger and stronger. I can use this to my advantage and try to be the best out there just from the learning experience I've gotten so far."