Mailloux versus Mesar: Friday Night in London

April 15, 2023

Last night, the Kitchener Rangers visited the London Knights for Game 2 of Round 2 of the Ontario Hockey League Playoffs. In this series, two first round picks of the Montreal Canadiens are facing off and I was in attendance on Friday night to get an in-person look at Logan Mailloux (2021, 31st overall) and Filip Mesar (2022, 26th overall).

Let me first say that I am a very long country drive on a dark and bumpy road away from being a scout or prospect guru. So what you’re getting from me are impressions after watching one junior hockey playoff game, when I spend far more time watching pro hockey. This isn’t me providing analysis that I will be standing on a decade from now, but rather my raw impressions from one game. Here we go!

Person-In-Environment (PIE) Assessment

In professional hockey we talk about individual stats, and then we factor in other aspects of their environment to analyze those stats. For example, was Sam Montembeault’s performance this season better than his stats will say based on playing on the fifth worse team in the league? The assessment is only as good as your consideration the person within their environment.

Mailloux was drafted a year earlier than Mesar, and based on that one would typically expect him to have more experience under his belt. This difference is somewhat mitigated, I believe, since Mailloux missed so much time due to suspension and injury, and since Mesar spent two seasons playing pro hockey in Slovakia.

Size is also a factor in junior hockey. For most of the roster, bodies are still developing. A player who has physically matured earlier than his peers will have an edge. Mailloux is 6’3″ and 208 pounds, while Mesar is 5’10” and weighs 168 pounds. Mailloux should absolutely stand out in a junior game in ways Mesar will not.

The quality of teammates is an important factor in assessing any player. The London Knights are the stronger team by far and are a contender to win it all in the OHL. They absolutely dominated the Rangers last night, and Kitchener’s goalie also had a rough night so the Rangers were playing catch up from early in the first period.

In summary, based on draft year, size, and quality of team, my expectation was that it would be easier for Mailloux to stand out than Mesar.

Impressions of Mailloux

Mailloux made his impression early, scoring just 49 seconds into the game. It was a puck the goalie probably should have stopped, but that is not to discredit Mailloux’s shot – it may be his most impressive feature. He unleashed it several times in the game and was dangerous despite scoring just once. His one-timer is potent, both for power and timing, and he has a very strong wrister that brings some diversity to his options from the point.

The other noteworthy feature is Mailloux’s ability to move the puck. The kid can skate and transport the puck in a way that, along with his shot, makes him a prospect worth developing as a power play quarterback. The scouting report on Mailloux is that his offensive gifts set him apart, and I certainly observed that last night.

Mailloux is often open for a point shot and confidently calls for the pass, and every time he took the puck in his own zone I was hoping for one of those end-to-end rushes. I did notice a few iffy passes that had the fans groaning – I’m not sure if the lazy shovel pass is a regular feature of his game but it made some appearances last night. At least one of them would have burned him badly at the pro level.

As stated earlier, I expected Mailloux to stand out for his size. Even looking at him on the bench he’s just bigger and more developed than his peers. Before the game began, he stood out for me in the way Arber Xhekaj did when I watched him in a few games in last season’s OHL playoffs. But once the game began that comparison disappeared.

In the OHL, Xhekaj used his size to intimidate players that had to look up to him. They avoided him on the ice and it opened space for him. If he took a penalty, someone was hurting for it. I wondered if it would translate to pro hockey, and now we know how that’s gone.

In my one-game look, that dynamic was completely missing from Mailloux’s game. He didn’t impose himself physically and there was no evidence he was feared by the opposition. It was a physical game and a lot of penalties were called – Mailloux’s only penalty was a slashing call where he was caught reaching and swinging at a player he could have easily eliminated by rubbing him out on the boards. He was on the periphery of every scrum, and to me he looked like the prototypical big guy who doesn’t play big.

I know the scouting report is that Mailloux’s defensive game needs work and, frankly, the Rangers didn’t give me much chance to observe that. I will say that Mailloux looks way less comfortable in his own end than he does playing offense. He looks a little like he’s not sure what he should be doing. The penalty he took could be considered lazy, or perhaps unintelligent defending, but it’s a very small sample. He was used on the penalty kill, so that’s a positive.

Overall, the impression left in this game was that he has tools that a developmental staff can build upon to make him an NHLer. He will likely need to commit to improving his defensive game considerably before that happens. I would be shocked if he’s playing in Montreal next year as some have proposed.

Impressions of Mesar

It was a very rough night for the Kitchener Rangers, and not an easy environment for Filip Mesar to make an impression. But there were a few things I noticed that are worth pointing out.

Just like I noticed Mailloux’s size in relation to his peers, I noticed Mesar’s. Yes, he even looked small in a junior game – not just short, but slight. As we all know, the NHL has bias in this area and there are some realities of physics that Mesar will have to overcome. In this game, he did not play small. There was no evidence that he avoided board battles or physical confrontations. There was even one engagement with Mailloux where Mesar did not stand out as the underdog.

Mesar is a smooth skater who is able to find open ice and thread passes through to find open teammates. He had a beautiful assist on a power play goal. I noted an occasion where he was pinned to the boards and it looked like he was neutralized. But Mesar was able to release the puck to the front of the net for a solid chance that his teammate didn’t convert.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard of Mesar this year is that he should be driving his line and making things happen. I’m not sure that’s fair. There were a few instances of decent set-ups and passes from Mesar last night that his teammates did nothing with. My impression is that this is not an instance of Mesar needing to be surrounded by elite talent to be effective. But he is a playmaker and he needs guys who can at least finish some of what he starts.

My expectation is that Mesar will make his way to Laval next year, and ideally uses the off-season to get stronger.

Overall Impression

I watched this game as a Habs fan, though I must note the London Knights have a nice set up here. The arena is lovely, the view from the press box is good, and they have the support of their community. It was a fun environment to watch kids play.

For the Habs, they appear to have two prospects who will graduate to the AHL next year, and with some development have a future in the NHL.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

4 thoughts on “Mailloux versus Mesar: Friday Night in London

  1. Excellent analysis! Thank you for your first hand account of these players. I’ve been looking forward to hearing about both of them!

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    1. Thank you for reading. I watched a few games last spring during the OHL playoffs as well – would love to watch all season but just don’t have the time. But seeing them live (and what they’re up to off camera) is an interesting added perspective, I find. It also gives me genuine appreciation for the life of a coach.

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  2. Your observations are carefully considered here regarding two of Montreal’s more polarizing prospects. Good to see that after everything was said and done your feeling is that there’s a chance they could be future NHLers.

    I believe both of these players had significant challenges to overcome this year. Mesar was adjusting to North American life and a smaller ice surface. Kitchener Rangers also endured tumultuous dressing room drama and a coaching change similar to the internal struggles in Peterborough (so Beck was another prospect with a rocky road this year). Mailloux’s ongoing metamorphosis from thug to rehabilitation continued and likely caused some turbulence again this year for big RD.

    I am hopeful these two become additional pieces in the big puzzle one day, either as roster players or in the form of trade chips! Nice to have some reaffirmation that these two could bring value down the line. Thanks as always for your insightful comments.

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