Filip Mesar finding another gear

Mesar appears to have saved his best for the postseason.
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Ontario Hockey League playoffs don't feature many Montreal Canadiens prospects, but it's been more about quality than quantity.

Filip Mesar has been a perfect example of that, the 2022 first-round draft prospect is second in the OHL playoff scoring race with 12 points through eight games. The Slovakian bested his 51 points in 52 games last year, with 52 in 45 games. It was less than he and, conceivably many fans would have expected given where he was selected.

But it looks as though he has found a way to elevate his game to new heights since the start of the playoffs. His Kitchener Rangers are currently in the thick of a second-round battle against the London Knights. The Rangers lost the first game of the series on Thursday night, but if they have any hopes of giving the Knights all they can handle, Mesar will be an important factor.

On Saturday afternoon, Mesar managed to factor in on one of the Rangers goals, but that was the lone goal they mustered up. Unfortunately for Mesar, the Knights scored five goals; giving themselves a comfortable two-game lead. With Mesar's assist, he is now tied for first in playoff scoring.

Mesar appeared adamant at the beginning of the 2023-24 season to play in the American Hockey League with the Laval Rocket. Fortunately for his development, he was sent back to the OHL, a decision with another season under his belt that made sense. At this point, it seems a matter of when and not if, for his professional hockey league arrival.

He did play two games to start the season with the Rocket, registering one assist. But I expect that next year, he will get the full season to display his growth since his draft year. The skill and speed combo will be welcomed in the lineup, and his ascension to the pros could give the Habs some wiggle room in a trade.

Mesar is on the smaller side (5 foot 10 and 172 pounds) and with Lane Hutson set to join the Habs and Cole Caufield already there, size does become a factor. Smaller, skilled players are worth keeping, but size is important in the playoffs. Having said that, it's not likely that the team wishes to have Riley Kidney, Sean Farrell and Rafael Harvey Pinard in the NHL, with Brendan Gallagher and the other two in the lineup.

Mesar's growth is on par with a late round draft pick and it may be another season before he scratches the surface of his potential. But he certainly has some tangible skills, that explain why the Canadiens were so high on him.