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Martin Reway: International Man of Mystery

Martin Réway is one of the more misunderstood prospects in hockey, but there is no misunderstanding that he has produced at every level.

Celebrating another goal in Fribourg-Gottéron
Celebrating another goal in Fribourg-Gottéron

Martin Réway was born in Prague to Slovakian parents, and started playing ice hockey for HC Slavia Praha; the same team Žigmund Pálffy once played for. Réway not only draws comparisons to the former NHL star, but lists Pálffy as one of his favourite players.

Réway moved to Slovakia in 2009, where he played two seasons for MHK Dolny Kubin before transferring to MHC Mountfield to play on both the U-18 and U-20 teams. He then crossed the border back to the Czech Republic for the 2011-12 season,  playing for Sparta Prague's youth teams, as well as making début on the international scene with a spot on Slovakia's U-18 team.

Gatineau Olympiques

For the 2012-13 season, Réway crossed the pond to join the Gatineau Olympiques; a move not commonly taken by Slovakian junior players. Adapting to a new country, culture, and language still didn't stop Réway from maintaining his career point-per-game pace. He scored 50 points in 47 games, and added 12 points in 10 games during the playoffs.

In the 2013 NHL draft, Réway was selected in the fourth round, 116th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens. That draft now looks to have been a jackpot for Montreal, with Michael McCarron, Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Artturi Lehkonen, and Sven Andrighetto all looking like solid future NHLers.

During the 2013-14 season, Réway scored 62 points in 43 games, and added 15 points in nine playoff games. After the Olympiques were knocked out of the QMJHL playoffs, Réway went to the World Championship in Minsk to join Team Slovakia.

In Réway's first game on the World Championship stage, he faced off against the Czech Republic, and the likes of Jaromir Jagr, and having Miroslav Satan, and Tomas Tatar in his own team. While Slovakia lost in overtime 3-2, Réway picked up a point in his first game via an assist on the second goal. He would also grab an assist against  Sweden, and another by setting up the game winner against Italy.

In seven games, Réway had three points, all of them coming at even strength. Performing at that level, against men that are among the world's best, was what persuaded Réway to move back across the Atlantic to turn pro and to develop his game. "At this time there was no offer from Montreal Canadiens," according to Réway's agent Mr Michal Sivek, who continued; "About his personal life, much was said and a lot was written. We see that Martin has made huge steps forward in all aspects of his life at this time."

The Gatineau Olympiques sent out a statement the 11th June 2014 with nothing more than a comment saying Réway wouldn't be back. It is very easy for people to judge someone they've never met, and whose history they are unfamiliar with. The exact circumstances surrounding his departure from Gatineau are still unknown, but it is clear that he made a big step forward in his life by leaving.

A return to Europe

Sparta Prague was the team that capitalized on Réways will to go home to Europe. Returning to the city where he was born, Réway started off on a bit of a slump, with only one assist in his first three games. But over the whole season, things turned to success as he would finish with 37 points in 35 games.

His biggest achievement was leading Slovakia to a surprising bronze medal at the World Juniors, where he was easily the best-looking Habs prospect from his draft class, outshining de la Rose, Lehkonen, and the absentee Michael McCarron.

Scoring a hat trick in the Bell Centre put him front and centre to all the Canadian media, and of course the Montreal faithful. Réway was asked to play centre, something he did with skill and passion, and something he has continued to do on and off with different teams.

Once back in Prague, he continued to perform, but most of his production was on the power play, and questions were being raised about his defensive awareness. His regular season stats altogether were pretty off the charts. He clocked in at 1.44 P/60 at even strength, and an insane 9.09 P/60 all situations.

On the power play Réway was paired with Hlinka, who had 8,2 P/60 all situations whereas other "normal" players had between 2-5 P/60 all situations (all numbers provided by @The_HockeyNinja). In the playoffs, Sparta was knocked out by Trinec in the semifinal, and Réway had seven points in eight games, for once not being over a point per game average in a national league or playoffs.

New destination Fribourg-Gottéron and the Swiss league.

With the 2015-1016 season in full swing, contract negotiations started between Réway and Sparta Prague. At the time, Réway was the top scorer in the Extraliga, and was also wearing the "top scorer" jersey for Sparta in CHL. It seems he wanted to push for more ice time, as the Czech system favours a distribution of ice time based largely on seniority. [Czech]. When negotiations stalled, Réway asked to be released to another team, and Sparta said no.

The negotiations broke down, and he was told to report to HC Benátky nad Jizerou, something he reportedly did. While not getting to play, Réway once more shone bright on the national team, as one of Slovakia's best players in the four nations tournament in Germany. He was also voted Man of the Match by his teammates in the last game against Switzerland; as he was excellent despite playing through the fog of his contract dispute.

Slovan Bratislava would be mentioned as a possible destination for Martin Réway, as they were the Slovak team holding his rights in the KHL. Negotiations were tough with Sparta Prague, who asked for Ticar and Jeglic in return for Réway. The two Slovenians from Bratislava are two of the best players on that roster, showing how much value Réway has.

Slovan was't willing to pay such a hefty price, so they negotiated with other KHL teams for his rights. In the end it was Fribourg-Gottéron that got Reway for the rest of the season. The Swiss National Liga - A is a step up for Réway, and he should really benefit from the competition there.

From my perspective, he has clearly embraced the team, and they've embraced him. He participates more in the activities on the bench compared to what I saw in Sparta Prague. He talks more and drives his teammates, taking on the responsibility of being a leader. And he hasn't missed a beat since switching leagues, currently sitting at a 1.3 PPG average.

The Future

When I was in Zurich, there were NHL scouts in the stands. They were watching a few players on the ice, surely in part for the draft, but also potentially scouting trade targets. Reway was highlighted on at least one sheet by a scout, and that tells me it's not only Montreal that keeps an eye on him.

In regards to the future had an interview where he addressed the Montreal Canadiens, and his NHL dream. His quote at the end comes out something like this:

"Right now I am not in contact with [the Canadiens] I am now focusing only on my performance in Fribourg. In addition, Montreal has an excellent NHL season underway. Do you really think they need Me?

Until next season, Canadiens have the rights on me - what happens then, we'll see. Now, however, I don’t care about this issue, but in the summer I’ll definitely  think about it. In my opinion, I am now ready for the NHL."

It remains to be seen if Réway could take a place in NHL directly, or go via the AHL. Interest around the KHL won't have diminished, especially considering the season he's having. Having recently been named an assistant captain in the Slovak national team, it is also clear that he's maturing, and is ready for more responsibility.

It was clear to me after meeting Martin Réway in Zurich that rumours are definitely wrong; and the young rebel mentioned in media seems to have grown up to become a good leader on top of the extraordinary player he already is.