Looking at the U20 Slovak national hockey team roster that coach Ernest Bokros put together, it's clear who should be the leader in the group. 19-year old Prague native Martin Reway has recently proven that he`s not just a noticeable talent among his peers but also at the senior level representing Slovakia at the WCH in Minsk, Belarus. The positive experience he had there convinced him that it was time to leave the CHL and return back to the Czech republic to play at the pro level in his hometown of Prague. HC Sparta will once again become his employer for the time being.
A rather controversial move to return back from Canada has been widely discussed over the summer on various platforms. But the young forward's only desire was to graduate from junior.
I started to think about my future in Minsk. I truly believed that I can handle playing at the highest level. I don't want to say that I had a great tournament but I don't think it was a bad one either. I wanted to make the jump and since I still had two years left on my contract with Sparta , I decided to return to Prague. We tweaked the contract a little though, changed the out-clause.
It was the desire to play with men that drove Reway away from North America. Reway impressed at the main camp in Montreal last year but it's never easy to make your mark in such a prestigious organization. As we all know, players drafted from the CHL cannot play in the AHL before the age of 20. Reway had three options and likely much to the disagreement of Habs management he chose Europe. That doesn't necessarily mean he closed the door on himself, but a move like that can rub some people the wrong way. Hopefully that won't be the case for Reway, who has turned heads on many occasions since he started to take preparation rather seriously.
Everything has pros and cons, I don`t want to have regrets. Gatineau helped me a lot in terms of my development as a player. I've learned much about the North American style of game, and those two seasons helped me become a more complete player. I also matured a lot. I didn't have much free time outside of the rink. The time I`d have had and maybe spent differently, if I stayed in Prague. So I don`t regret anything regarding my time in Gatineau. If I felt bad about everything I've done in the past, I'd be buried in it and that serves no purpose.
All that being said, leaving Canada can make it tough on the personal side of things, trying to negotiate an entry-level contract with Montreal, who retains rights on Reway for the remainder of the upcoming season. If the general manager Marc Bergevin wants keep him in the pipeline, they'll have to come to an agreement with his agent by then.
I'm focused on this season only, playing for Sparta and the U20 team. I'm trying to live in the moment, I don't want to get distracted thinking about whether Montreal offers me a contract or not. Even if they didn't, there`s still an opportunity to sign elsewhere as a free agent, but that`s foreshadowing. Currently my focus is Sparta and the national team. Nothing else.
Reway won't lose contact with Montreal despite leaving Quebec, at least not on the international level. He'll be the main piece of the puzzle and the biggest offensive star for Slovakia at the WJC in December. Slovakia will play in Montreal and the spotlight will be on the slightly undersized skilled forward. Furthermore, Reway will compete against his now former coach, Benoit Groulx, who'll lead Canada to battle on their home soil.
In his own words that's not the only reason why he's excited to be back with fellow Slovaks.
It'll be my last WJC tournament. Over the summer I've come to realize that it's my last year with these guys. Time flies. Younger guys maybe won't notice but for some of us, it's the last chance to make the most of the opportunity and for some the last chance to put on that jersey. It`s an absolute necessity to impress the scouts, a big stage that can help you start a career. That was the case for me too. My performance at the WJC helped me get recognized and eventually receive an invitation to the men's national team camp. It'd be great if we could replicate what guys like Tatar and Panik did five years ago when they finished fourth.
The U20 team started the preparation before heading to Switzerland earlier than usual. Not to Reway's liking as his season ended late due to representing the country at the WCH in May. There was literally no time to rest, Reway admitted.
It's not easy for me but it`s a part of the business. I had no vacation this year but if you`re successful as an individual or with your team, that's how it goes. I had to put in the work during this short offseason to be ready. Right now I feel alright, ask me in April.
Despite the short amount of time he had for himself, Reway didn't even think about turning down the camp invitation from coach Bokros.
Of course not. I`m always happy to be here and I'm very grateful that Sparta allowed me to come here. I haven't met some of the guys in four years. It'll be good to reconnect with them and create some chemistry before the tournament. I'm not an integral part of the men`s national team yet, I got to Minsk partly due to injury problems of some players. I'm still thankful for the opportunity that was given to me. But I still belong with this age group and I'm glad I can be a part of this team.