The Montreal Canadiens recently announced they had assigned Filip Mesar to the Laval Rocket, but where he plays this season is still to be determined.

With the Canadiens recently cutting Mesar from their training camp and assigning him to the Laval Rocket for their upcoming training camp, the real test is set to begin for the 18-year-old Slovak.

Like Juraj Slafkovsky, Mesar is a 1st round pick, which means that the Montreal Canadiens now have the liberty of choosing where he plays next season. That means that Mesar can play in the AHL if the Montreal Canadiens deem him ready. The 20-year-old rule that inhibits CHL players from playing in the AHL would not be a problem for Mesar, as he was drafted out of Europe; giving him a distinct advantage over his peers if he were ready for that kind of a jump.

The Canadiens must now continue to evaluate Mesar as he attends the Rocket camp to determine whether he’s ready for the AHL, or whether spending the year with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL or in another European league may be best for his development.

Proving He’s Ready For The AHL

When it comes to the AHL, the odds have been stacked against him.

The Laval Rocket will have trouble finding room to play all of their forwards due to the high number of AHL contracts they’ve handed out this summer, as well as the more mature Canadiens forward prospects taking up spots. Prospects like Jan Mysak might even have trouble getting consistent minutes to start due to the high number of AHL veterans on the team.

That being said, Mesar had an impressive training camp and has given himself a head start in proving he belongs in the AHL. He showed a unique ability to thrive against men at the centre position using some impressive speed and skill to generate offensive chances; a facet of play the Rocket currently lack in their centre depth at the moment. Furthermore, having him in Laval means the Canadiens would be able to have him close to the team’s developmental staff and could even be recalled for a few games in case of injury.

His versatility as an offensive centre or playmaking winger could also play in his favour.

However, if Mesar isn’t able to secure himself a spot on one of the first three lines with the Rocket, the Canadiens may be forced to look at other options.

Kitchener Is Still On The Table

Despite being loaned to Laval at the moment. Filip Mesar could be assigned to the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, should he fail to secure a meaningful role with the Rocket.

Should Mesar be loaned to Kitchener, he would get prime usage on a nightly basis and would instantly become their most prominent forward right from the jump. The Canadiens could also make the request that he continue developing at a lower level with prime minutes at centre, rather than as a winger. That’s an advantage that should not be undersold; as Mesar would be able to focus on optimizing his performance in such a pivotal role, pun intended,

It would make for a very interesting environment where Mesar would be able to further refine his offensive game as well, in a less physically demanding setting. He could then be recalled to join the Laval Rocket at the end of the season if Kitchener fails to make the playoffs or is eliminated early.

Back To Europe?

If Mesar doesn’t crack the roster in Laval and prefers to return to Europe for the year, rather than play in junior; the Canadiens also have some options.

Mesar’s contract with HC Nitra of the Slovak Extraliga expired at the end of last season, meaning that Mesar could be loaned to any team that’s willing to take him on.

This could open the door for a loan to a club in the Swedish Hockey League or the Finnish Liiga, where Mesar could continue developing against men in a competitive setting, all while earning a respectable wage. The major downside to this route however, is that Mesar would not be able to rejoin the Laval Rocket or Montreal Canadiens until the season of his European club has concluded.

Whether it be Laval, Kitchener or Europe, the Canadiens management staff will have another week of evaluation to decide where the 18-year-old will play this season. It will be interesting to see how Mesar performs in AHL preseason games and what decision the Canadiens brass ultimately take.

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