Martin Reway Impressing in Preseason, Champions Hockey League

Photo: Jan Benes, HC Sparta Praha

Photo: Jan Benes, HC Sparta Praha

It hasn’t taken long for Martin Reway to make his mark with HC Sparta Praha, as the left-winger has posted six points in his first five games. The dynamic offensive talent also has a pair of shootout goals and has shown the ability to handle himself physically against bigger opponents. It’s not much of a sample size, but his start has been excellent.

Reway racked up two assists and the game-winning shootout goal in his first preseason game. The following game, Reway scored the game-winning goal with a deflection late in the third period. In his final preseason game, Reway grabbed an assist with a brilliant one-time pass to Jan Buchtele. But it’s not his play in the preseason that has been so noteworthy–it has been his play in the Champions Hockey League.

The Champions Hockey League is a 44-team tournament, comprised of many of Europe’s best hockey teams. It’s still in the group stage, and HC Sparta Praha has played just two games, but what Reway has done is encouraging.

On the third line with Jan Buchtele and former Montreal Canadiens prospect, Daniel Pribyl, Reway has thrived. Against KalPa Kuopio, Reway, as well as his linemates, looked unstoppable. From Reway’s first shift, it was clear that he wasn’t backing down from much bigger and stronger opponents. He was involved everywhere on the ice, including in his own zone, and he created scoring chance after scoring chance. Reway and Pribyl showed particularly good chemistry, linking up multiple times throughout the game. Despite all these chances, the trio were unable to convert and it appeared it was going stay that way.

As is often the case in the unpredictable game of hockey, the line finally converted their scoring chances in the third period. Pribyl forced the defender into sending a blind pass along the boards, which was picked up Reway. Reway waltzed a defender and sent a pass to Buchtele, who buried it, tying the game late in the third. KalPa reclaimed the lead shortly after, but with 1:28 remaining, Reway picked up a loose puck and sent it to Buchtele. Buchtele walked into the slot and scored, tying the game yet again.

Overtime would solve nothing, meaning it would be a decisive shootout. Reway shot second and he scored with a slick backhand shot. HC Sparta Praha would go to win the game 5-4.

However, it wasn’t just the two point night that impressed me. His second game against Växjö Lakers HC was also enlightening, just in a different way. Reway tried to implicate himself in the first 40 minutes, but couldn’t connect with his passes, committing turnovers seemingly every shift. He blew his defensive coverage a few times and it became clear that he was getting frustrated. In fact, the entire line seemed to struggle until the third period.

In the final 20 minutes of play, Reway adjusted his game. He played with lots of energy, evident by a handful of notable hits and excellent defensive plays. The highly-skilled player simplified his game; he made an in-game adjustment, something that I haven’t seen from Reway. This adjustment would help Sparta close out the game as with just over 1:30 remaining, with Växjö’s goaltender pulled, Reway drew a penalty.

Reway picked up the puck high in his own zone, beat one defender and then carried the puck through two more. As an act of desperation, the defender reached in with his stick, hooking Reway. Instead of attempting the empty-netter, Reway let the puck drift to the Växjö player, putting Sparta on the powerplay for the remainder of the game. Sparta would draw another penalty, and they were able to score their fifth and final goal, giving them a decisive 5-2 victory. The decision was so minuscule, yet so smart. The in-game adjustment showed a different side to Reway, one that plays an unselfish and smart style.

I suspect ice time won’t be an issue for Reway this year, and if the progression continues he very well could find himself among HC Sparta Praha’s top forwards. Josef Jandac and the rest of the coaching staff showed no fear playing Reway in crucial situations. Reway was on the ice late in both games, which paid off. The coaching staff have also used Reway on the powerplay, typically sending him out on the second wave.

It’s still too early to judge his season, but at this rate it appears Reway is on track to succeed. HC Sparta Praha will compete for the Czech Extraliga title and Reway is in good hands. It’s well-known that Reway’s skill level is off-the-charts, but his attention to detail is anything but. With Sparta, Reway has shown the willingness to do the little things, and it has paid off. Whether or not that continues remains to be seen, but what we’ve seen so far is encouraging.


No Cause for Concern with Artturi Lehkonen

Since signing with Swedish club Frölunda HC, Artturi Lehkonen hasn’t gotten much luck. The Finn has since fallen ill with mononucleosis, keeping him out of Development Camp, as well as a summer’s worth of training. Since returning on August 14th against Leksand IF, Lehkonen has yet to record a point. However, Lehkonen has been used sparingly, which is understandable considering his conditioning isn’t up to par.

Frölunda HC has unfairly earned a bad reputation among Canadiens fans over the years, thanks to Sebastian Collberg’s lack of success. Despite being a highly-skilled sniper, Collberg was unable to do anything meaningful in three seasons in the Swedish Hockey League. Fans began to question the club due to Collberg’s lack of ice time.

When Lehkonen signed with Frölunda HC some assumed that he would get buried in the line-up, just like Collberg, which so far has been correct. But, it’s still not a cause for concern.

Last season, Roger Rönnberg (Frölunda’s head coach) gave all of the young players an opportunity to show why they belonged on the team, and many succeeded. Columbus Blue Jackets first-round pick Alex Wennberg and Toronto Maple Leafs seventh-rounder Andreas Johnson were among the team’s most valuable forwards. 22-year-old sophomore defender, John Klingberg led all Frölunda defenders in points and ice time and 20-year-old rookie, Mikael Wikstrand averaged nearly 20 minutes a game. Even Collberg received an opportunity last season, but he proved that he wasn’t ready for it.

The short of it is that Lehkonen won’t get buried in the line-up–if he proves he can play. Considering the fact that he led KalPa–a men’s team in men’s league–in scoring while playing just 33 of 60 games, I have a tough time picturing Lehkonen not being successful. Lehkonen will get his chance, presumably once his conditioning reaches an appropriate level. For now, there’s no reason to be concerned with Lehkonen’s ice time.

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