One of the most skilled prospects on our list happens to be one of the smallest players; Martin Reway. The young Slovak winger was officially eligible for our Top 25 Under 25 project back in 2013, yet due to the relative unfamiliarity surrounding him, he failed to crack the top 25. Due to a strong showing at the World Junior Championship, Reway jumped all the way to #14 in our mid-term rankings.
Those who are familiar with Trevor Timmins' draft strategy are used to seeing players with Reway's high offensive potential picked up in the later rounds, like Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon or Daniel Audette. Reway fits in this mold, given that his 5'9" frame is well-below average size, however on the flip side of the coin the Prague native possesses the skill set of a player that usually gets snatched up quickly in the first round.
Reway's skill was not enough to get him noticed by very many teams, although he definitely caught the attention of Timmins, who described him as a home run swing type of draft pick.
Everyone agreed that Reway is a worthwhile prospect to monitor, with his votes ranging from the 10th overall position to the 17th. That's a very narrow voting range, especially at this position. There's a very consistent voting pattern to be found, with eight of the voters placing him in the 13th-15th position.
Reway is gifted with fantastic puck skills. His hands are silky smooth, which allowed him to fool the vast majority of defenders he faced in the QJMHL. I was lucky enough to watch a fair amount of Gatineau games during the lockout and beyond, yet the best player on the ice every single night was not the first round pick Emile Poirier, but rather the shifty Slovak winger. I should also note that the vast majority of Gatineau Olympiques games I saw were versus none other than the powerhouse Halifax Mooseheads, who managed to shut down absolutely everyone on the ice due to their offensive prowess. Everyone except Martin Reway. His speed and creativity served him well, as he continuously confused the Mooseheads defencemen with his crafty play. His two years in the QJMHL led him to become one of the best playmakers in the league.
His performance at the World Junior Championship confirmed that Reway not only possessed the skill to produce offense at the CHL level, but at the international level as well. He finished fifth in tournament scoring, behind the likes of Teuvo Teravainen, Filip Forsberg and Anthony Mantha.
There's no denying it, Reway is small. Eliteprospects.com lists him at 5'10", however that seems like quite an exaggeration. Early in his QJMHL career he was quite easy to knock off the puck, and shied away from physical confrontations. This led many to believe he would be unable to make the jump to professional hockey. However in his second season under the tutelage of Benoit Groulx, Reway started to show signs of life in the physical department. He was no longer knocked off the puck with the greatest of ease, and he even started throwing some hits of his own. Reway's defensive game also requires a fair amount of polishing.
The other major factor that scouts tend to look at is character. Reway is not the traditional hard worker in that respect. Several people have claimed that Reway did not take his hockey career seriously, relying solely on his abundant skill to overcome a lack of effort. Although it must be said that his coach in Gatineau did a fantastic job instilling a strong work ethic, which will be key if the diminutive forward hopes to make the NHL one day. At this point it has to be said that Reway is as determined as anyone else on the ice, on any given night.
The 19-year-old definitely projects as a top-six player. There's very little chance that he'd be able to excel in a bottom-six role in the NHL, given that his game relies on creativity and skill. As we saw during the WJC, Reway can give any defender fits, including the top Canadian blue-liners.
As it stands, he'll either develop into a offensive stud that will rely on powerplay time to produce, or he'll fade away as another skilled player that just couldn't cut it in the NHL. Reway is currently playing in the Czech league, where he's off to a hot start. He's put up four points, along with a shootout winner in his first three pre-season games. These numbers are encouraging, given that he's playing in a professional league, albeit a weak one.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Reway. He comes from a disadvantaged background, and has faced a ridiculous amount of criticism during his short tenure in Gatineau. From what I saw while watching him play, he has almost all the tools necessary to carve out a niche spot in the NHL. That being said, I'm not overly confident that spot will be with the Montreal Canadiens, given that they're already stocked with small skilled players.
He'll need to continue to build on his already abundant creativity if he hopes to create space and scoring chances as a pro, yet we shouldn't count him out whatsoever due to his lack of size. It's always a mistake to bet against skill, which Reway has in spades.