Victor Mete had an impressive preseason with the Montreal Canadiens and opened the regular season on the team's top pairing with Shea Weber.
But Mete's ice time has dropped considerably over the past month and he has not topped 15 minutes in a game since Nov. 2.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported Tuesday the Canadiens could elect to loan the 19-year-old to Team Canada for the World Juniors in Buffalo next month.
"As for Victor Mete, the Canadiens have not closed the door on it, they’ve not opened the door on it, but there’s no ignoring the ice-time trend," McKenzie said on Tuesday's edition of Insider Trading. "The high watermark for Mete was 22:34 on the 18th of October. And then the last five games he played 13 minutes, nine minutes, a healthy scratch, 11 minutes and down to six minutes in the game on Nov. 27 against Columbus and that was a game where Shea Weber and David Schlemko were not in the lineup and both those guys could be in there real soon.
"Wait and see is the proposition on Mete, but Hockey Canada is interested."
Mete has three assists and is minus-1 in 24 games with the Canadiens this season.
The 19-year-old crossed the 10-game threshold on Oct. 30, which activated the first year of his entry-level contract. As McKenzie noted Wednesday on Montreal's TSN Radio 690, sending Mete back to the OHL's London Knights would close the door on a return to the NHL this season.
"The last thing you want to do if you're the Montreal Canadiens is send Victor Mete back to the London Knights, because once you do that you can't access him again - he's there for the rest of the year," McKenzie explained. "What you want to do is, obviously if you're inclined to give him to the Junior program, give him to the Junior program either on the 11th (when players report) or the 19th (the deadline to loan a player for the tournament), or any day in between and then when the World Juniors are over, you see where you're at.
"Maybe, you're wracked with injuries and now he's right back in the lineup, maybe plays tremendous and continues to play, or maybe you look at it and say 'you know what, we've got a pretty full roster here, we're playing well. Now, we send him back to London,' if that's the best move for his development."
McKenzie added that it's too early to say what decision the Canadiens will make, since Mete could be a blueline injury away from seeing significant ice time again.
Mete, a fourth-round draft pick in 2016, last represented Canada in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2015.