Filip Mesar Showing Big Step In His Development Through First Two WJC Games

Canada v Slovakia: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
Canada v Slovakia: Quarterfinals - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

There is one thing that has become abundantly clear for the Montreal Canadiens; is their onus on developing players, and Filip Mesar is another product of that.

The Slovaks have opened up their World Junior Hockey Championships schedule with two big wins, setting themselves up for a nice rank in their group. Today's win against the Swiss can be largely attributed to the brilliant performance between the pipes from Adam Gajan. He was named player of the game, to go along with his shutout.

But let's shift our focus back to Canadiens 2022 26th overall draft selection - Mesar, who has been one of the Slovak's best players through two games. The best part of it all is that he has been so much more than just an offensive catalyst. Don't get me wrong, he is still an offensive dynamo with his combination of speed and skill, but he has made considerable efforts defensively.

Game One Against Czechia

Speed kills as they say, and nobody has been more of a beneficiary of that than Mesar. He is positionally aware, and if out of position, it doesn't take him long to cover large areas of ice to get back into position. His decision-making is what has stood out above all else, he makes smart plays along the boards and always has his head up scanning for his linemates in open ice.

Mesar, despite being on the smaller side, seems to have kept a close eye on Habs head coach Martin St. Louis's highlight tapes, because he has been just as tenacious as Marty. Smart hits, quick passes and having his head up scanning constantly have been Mesar's bread and butter.

While he didn't beat Czechia goaltender Michael Hrabal, he did just about everything else. Mesar started his production with an assist on a second-period tally by Servac Petrovsky. Mesar showed a few of his tools on the play - patience, finesse and flat-out skill.

Mesar and Petrovsky had something nice working against the Czechs. The duo connected for the second time, at the 45:22 mark of the game. Mesar made a nice individual effort, showing off his puck skills and dynamic skating, before flipping the puck around the defender and feeding a wide-open Petrovsky for a nice one-timer.

Mesar and Slovakia capped off a 6-2 win in the tournament opener. And the Habs prospect has shown tons of swagger. Kent Hughes has undoubtedly been following the tournament closely, and Mesar has been cooking - much to the delight of the Canadiens brass.

Game Two Against Switzerland

Mesar was just getting started in game one, which is scary to think about for the opposition. Anyways, he was ready to follow up his game one performance, in a game two showdown against Switzerland.

The second game of the tournament for Mesar forced him to play a bit differently. The Swiss played a tight-checking game, and if not for netminder Adam Gajan, the game could have been much closer. Mesar was more physical and he had to play a more defensive game, supporting his defenseman in the defensive zone. His 200-foot game is coming along quite nicely.

He did so effectively and was rewarded with an assist in the gut check time of the game. The Swiss pulled their goalie in an attempt to draw even with the Slovaks. Maxim Strbak secured the puck and fed a nice pass to Mesar, who found a wide-open Peter Repcik, who sealed the game with an empty net goal.

The Slovakians' 2-0 start is setting the stage for a huge game between the Americans and Slovaks on New Year's Eve.