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Big Plans For Canadiens’ Filip Mesar With Kitchener Rangers

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Filip Mesar

The Kitchener Rangers are thrilled to have Montreal Canadiens prospect Filip Mesar join their ranks, and he’s set to have a starring role with the club moving forward.

After being loaned by the Montreal Canadiens to the Rangers on Saturday, Mesar’s debut was delayed due to some IIHF transfer issues, but those have now all been rectified, according to Kitchener Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.

“He’s been approved as of yesterday (Tuesday) and he’ll be in our lineup on Friday,” said McKenzie on Mesar’s status.

Mesar’s inclusion in the lineup is not being taken lightly by the Rangers who hold the player in high esteem.

“Filip’s a first-round pick with the ability to be one of the top forwards in the league,” said McKenzie on how excited the Rangers are to have Mesar join the ranks.

It’s been a long time coming for the Rangers, who initially selected Mesar at 9th overall during the 2021 CHL Import Draft more than 16 months ago. McKenzie and his team kept tabs on Mesar throughout the season and especially at the 2022 NHL Draft, where Mesar was selected 26th overall by the Montreal Canadiens.

Once the Canadiens made the pick, Mackenzie was quick to reach out to the Canadiens and establish a channel of communication to reinforce their interest in having Mesar join their ranks should the Canadiens decide to assign him to junior.

“We were paying attention at the draft and when Montreal selected him in the first round, we reached out right away to let them know that we’re here,” said McKenzie about the first point of contact with the Canadiens. “We said we’d love to have Filip and kind of left it alone and let the process play out. We’re really happy and fortunate that it worked out.”

At Centre Or On The Wing?

Mesar was able to hit the ice with his new teammates for the first time on Wednesday morning, lining up next to LA Kings’ 2nd rounder Francesco Pinelli and 2023 draft-eligible Carson Rhekopf on what will likely be Kitchener’s top line moving forward. Mesar is listed as the right-winger for the moment in the lineup, but it’s not necessarily a sign of things to come for the full season.

“I don’t think anything is permanent. The way we play, most notably in our defensive zone, I think everyone on the line is going to have some responsibility to be playing down low. Even though the paper will say who’s playing centre or who’s playing wing, the first guy back (on defence) will be playing down low, so he’ll get reps regardless.”

Despite not lining up at centre on the stat sheet, Mesar will still have many of the same responsibilities that a pivot would normally have, as he will split some of those duties with Pinelli. That being said, he’ll also be tried at centre before the Rangers ultimately settle on a spot for him in the lineup.

“He’s going to be taking draws for sure, since he’s a right-shot and Pinelli’s a left-shot,” said McKenzie on the strategy behind the Mesar-Pinelli pair. “It’ll help alleviate the responsibility for sure. He’ll start as the winger, but he’s going to get reps at centre too and we’ll see how it goes.”

Whether he plays at centre or splits the role with Pinelli on a long-term basis, the plan is to play Mesar, a lot. A player with his offensive ability could be one of the most lethal players in the OHL this season, and the Rangers hope that the influx of skill and speed will help them return to their winning ways and make a run for the playoffs.

The Transition To Junior Hockey

Although Mesar will be a major piece for the Rangers moving forward, many within the fanbase remains skeptical that a stint in junior was the best course of action for his development; preferring instead to see him play with the Laval Rocket. McKenzie wished to ease some of those concerns, by putting things into context for the good of Mesar’s development.

“I don’t people realize how hard a league the AHL is. It’s obviously not the NHL, but it’s a very hard, physical, grinding type of league. I’ve seen how hard it could be first-hand,” said McKenzie on the big step that is playing in the AHL. “He’s coming to a different country, which is an adjustment. He’s playing on a new ice surface, which is an adjustment. For a very skilled player, it’s important for those players to continue to be skilled and talented. It’s hard to play against men in that case and grow when you’re not on the powerplay and in the top-6.”

With Mesar seemingly lined up for top-line duties and a top power play minutes, Mesar will have every opportunity to grow his offensive game and get used to the grind of a 60+ game season before potentially making the jump to the pros next year; stronger, faster and better equipped for the rigours of the pro game.

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habbernack

I think being with the Rangers will help him to really get a feel for the smaller ice game. Should be interesting when the Rangers play Mississauga

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