RANGERS SPOTLIGHT: Slovakian forward Filip Mešár
Written by Nikolas Viveiros
Rangers nation bursted into excitement when it was announced that Filip Mesar would join the team following an impressive training camp with the Montreal Canadiens.
The 18-year-old winger was taken 26th overall by Montreal in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, becoming the third Slovak to be taken in the first round.
Through his first 14 games as Ranger, his multifaceted skill set has been on full display. From his exceptional skating ability to his quick hands in tight areas. You can’t miss #48 when he’s on the puck.
Growing up in Slovakia in the early 2000s, Mesar was introduced to hockey at a young age. Due to a generation of NHL superstars like Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, and Marian Gaborik, hockey has grown to be one of the most popular sports in the country.
“I used to play soccer before hockey because my dad was a soccer player,” said Mesar. “One day my friend asked me to go to his hockey practice and I really liked it.”
Mesar grew up playing alongside friends Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec through Slovakia’s national team program. Not only did all three players get selected in the first round but Mesar and Slafkovsky both landed in Montreal. This was something Mesar valued, as coming to North America with a teammate and friend made the transition smoother.
“It was a great night for Slovakia hockey, and I never expected to go to Montreal considering I only had one meeting with them,” said Mesar. “Obviously it’s very exciting as they’re the best team in the NHL in terms of history, so I feel very lucky.”
During his summer spent in Montreal, Mesar was introduced to the facilities and got a taste of life in Canada. He also shared an apartment with a former Ranger, who told him all about the excitement of playing in Kitchener.
“I was with Arber and he told me that Kitchener is an awesome organization with great fans and a nice rink,” said Mesar. “I definitely realised that when I got here and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
In Mesar’s Rangers debut on October 21st, he potted one goal and three assists en route to a 7-2 win over Sudbury. Though he looked like he was playing in cruise control, Mesar felt an abundance of emotions before the puck dropped.
“My first game, I felt a little stressed and I wasn’t happy with my first period,” said Mesar. “ [Obviously] we went on to win, which was cool, and it’s always nice to score and assist.”
Growing up in Slovakia, Mesar was a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby. Now following last July’s draft, that choice has changed quickly.
“Now my favourite team is Montreal,” joked Mesar. “And even though he’s not on my team, I like the play of Nathan Mackinnon.”
With his parents in Slovakia, Mesar keeps them in the loop of how he’s enjoying life away from home for the very first time. Though they haven’t been able to see him play for the Rangers, the family is hoping to change that very soon.
“They want to come down in the middle of January which would be something new for them,” said Mesar. “They have never been to Canada before and it will be exciting.”
Though Mesar wasn’t familiar with too many of his Rangers teammates before arriving, he says the bond in the room has been great and it’s only a matter of time before the wins rack up.
“We are all really good friends and a good group of guys which is important,” said Mesar. “Everyone is so nice to me, so I want to help the team as much as I can with whatever they need.”