There is no doubting the talent and skill that Slovak playmaker Martin Réway possesses. This year’s ranking is down because of the uncertainty he can rebound from a terrible illness that threatened to — and still can — end his hockey career prematurely.
It was in September of last year that he was diagnosed with a heart condition and had to spend time in the ICU. Recovery has been slow but steady and he has been training both on and off the ice since May.
He played the previous season between the Czech Extraliga and Switzerland’s NLA, and performed very well, having good offensive success. The season was finished off with play in the World Championship on a line with Marko Dano and Martin Bakos that looked formidable on paper but never clicked properly. It was the last time that Réway has played competitive hockey.
His agent at the time, Michal Sivek, spoke with Eyes on the Prize after Réway signed his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens. “Martin is prepared to fight for a chance in the NHL. He will play in the AHL if he doesn’t make the team straight out of camp, there is no question about that.”
Every time Réway has moved up to a higher competition level he has improved his play. His move from the QMJHL to Extraliga was followed by huge success on the ice. He improved on that season in an arguably better league, the NLA, where he was shadowing Auston Matthews in points per game at a rate of 1.11, compared to last year’s Calder Trophy winner at 1.28.
Réway would no doubt have been a good addition to a St. John’s IceCaps team that fought tooth and nail to make the playoffs; his likely landing spot as it’s hard to believe that he would have made the Canadiens out of camp with Michel Therrien’s stern focus on the defensive side of the game.
Réway was ranked between ninth and 27th, the wide range no doubt a result of the illness that makes his future uncertain. The community placed him at 18th this year, with one of the more optimistic outlooks for the skilled forward.
Top 25 Under 25 History
In his first opportunity to crack the Top 25 Under 25, Réway fell short, at 33rd, after being drafted in the fourth round by the Canadiens in 2013. In his second year, he made a leap to 14th and had been climbing one spot per year before this summer, with last year’s #12 spot as his highest ranking achieved.
Réway’s strength is in his vision and his passing skill. His creativity regularly sets up other players with an open chance on the net. He draws comparisons to Alex Kovalev and Zigmund Pálffy, both excellent playmakers in their own way.
Adding to the confusion of the opposing defence is that he is elusive with his smaller size and difficult to track when he glides around the ice looking for an opening. It seems he doesn’t have to exert much energy getting up to speed. This makes defenders lose sight of him on the big European ice; the question is how that would translate to a North American-size rink. Judging from his 2015 WJC performance in Montreal, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
If only he had the frame of compatriot Zdeno Chara.... When Réway’s name is mentioned, size is usually the first thing that comes up. Listed on NHL.com at 5’8’’ (170 cm), it is obvious that he is a short player.
In a recent tweet he showed himself weighing 88 kgs (194 lbs.), which seems a bit heavy for his stature, but it also shows that he has gained a lot of weight since the illness last year. Montreal has a history of succeeding with shorter players: Mats Näslund, Saku Koivu and Brendan Gallagher. Will Réway’s name one day be added to that list?
His defensive game needs to be shored up, but he seems to be trusted by both teammates and the coach of the Slovak National Team, Zdeno Cíger, as he was given the “A” as the youngest ever player for Slovakia at the men’s international level.
He is a player who sometimes will cheat on the defensive play in order to benefit from a possible offensive chance for himself and his team, and that’s something that a defensive coach like Claude Julien would want changed before a call-up to the Canadiens.
It is difficult to gauge the future of Martin Réway. He is still being monitored by doctors, and while everything seems to be going according to plan there is always the chance that he might just have lost too much.
In his mind he is ready to fight for an NHL spot come September and I would assume most would hope for a fairytale ending given the situation that he has been through in the last 12 months.