'I want to be a leader': Montreal Canadiens prospect suiting up for Kitchener Rangers debut
Three months after being drafted into the National Hockey League, Filip Mešár is calling the Kitchener Rangers his new home.
The 18-year-old Slovak was selected 26th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in July, and put pen to paper on a three-year entry-level contract just a few days later.
“I didn’t expect Montreal,” Mešár told CTV News. “It was pretty special.”
Mešár was the second Slovak to be drafted by Montreal in the opening round. The Habs selected top prospect Juraj Slafkovský with the first overall pick, making him the highest Slovakia-born player to be taken in the NHL Entry Draft.
“I think Slovak hockey is growing year by year, better and better. [Players born in 2004], we are a pretty good group of guys, and that’s why we had a lot of guys drafted,” Mešár said.
The two Slovaks grew up playing minor hockey together before being drafted into the NHL by the same team. Mešár said seeing Slafkovský make the Canadiens roster out of camp pushes him to work even harder to eventually make the NHL.
“It’s motivation for me to make the team as soon as possible and maybe try to play with him on the same line,” Mešár said.
ROAD TO THE RANGERS
Mešár started the season with the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League.
After playing one regular season game, the Canadiens assigned him to the Ontario Hockey League to play with the Kitchener Rangers.
“I like it here so much. Pretty good guys here. I think we could be a really good team.” Mešár said.
Head coach Chris Dennis tells CTV News he expects the 18-year-old to play a prominent role on the team’s top six while also logging time on the powerplay.
“He’s very talented, he’s very quick, his first few steps are very fast,” Dennis said. “There’s a lot of eyes on you once you’re a first-round pick. A lot of those guys handle it differently, but I think with Filip, I see a player and a person who really wants to be a professional. He’s doing everything the right way.”
Mešár says his ultimate goal is to crack an NHL lineup, but for now, his only focus is on the Rangers.
“I came here to help the team first, to win a [Memorial] Cup and I want to be a leader on the team,” Mešár said.
The forward also hopes to represent Slovakia at the upcoming IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Halifax and Moncton this December.
Mešár is set to make his Rangers debut Friday night when Kitchener hosts the Sudbury Wolves at the Aud.