MONTREAL – After spending the last two seasons in the pro ranks overseas, Martin Reway is ready to bring his game back to North America.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Canadiens announced that they’d agreed to terms with the 21-year-old forward on a three-year, two-way contract through the 2018-19 campaign.
The signing came just one day after the Prague native and his Slovakian contingent wrapped up preliminary-round play at the World Hockey Championship in Russia where they earned a fifth-place finish in Group B, failing to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Canadiens’ fourth-round selection – 116th overall – back in 2013, Reway was eager to get the deal done and begin preparing for his first full season on this side of the pond since plying his trade with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques between 2012 and 2014.
“I’m really happy to be joining the Canadiens. It’s a great day in my career, for sure. All of my family worked hard to help me when I was younger, and I always had this dream of signing my first NHL contract. Now, it came true. I’m happy that it all paid off,” said Reway, who started last season with Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga, before joining Switzerland’s National League A squad Fribourg-Gotteron HC in mid-November.
“I want to play in the NHL. Of course I want to make the Canadiens, but I’m pretty sure that this year I’m going to play in North America no matter what happens [at training camp]. If I don’t make the team, I’m going to go to the American Hockey League [in St. John’s] and work hard there to give myself a chance to play for the Canadiens again,” added Reway, who collected 73 points (22 goals, 51 assists) in 67 regular season games since making his pro debut with Sparta Praha in 2014-15.
Reway believes the move to Switzerland late last year will pay dividends upon his arrival in Montreal, which could come as soon as early July for Development Camp on the South Shore. It afforded him the chance to experience a playing style that he believes more closely resembles the brand of hockey he’ll be asked to play at both the NHL and AHL levels. While Reway only suited up for 19 games with the Swiss side due to injury, he insists it provided him with some valuable insight going forward.
“The league there is really, really fast. It was a big step up for me. It’s a North American style of play. There’s no time to make bad plays there. I felt like it was going to be good for me if I wanted to come over for the upcoming year. It was good preparation. I got some important experience,” said Reway, whose confidence has continued to grow in Europe while putting up good numbers against many players far older – and far more seasoned – than him. “I feel ready for this. Of course it’s not going to be easy, but I know myself best, I know what I can do and how I can play. I believe I can do it with my skills and have the coaches have to make a difficult decision.”
Paying close attention to the way his veteran teammates in Europe go about their business on a daily basis has also helped Reway prepare for the challenge that lies ahead. He’s been fortunate to have role models aplenty to learn from and guide him in his bid to one day be a full-time NHLer.
“When you play with pros, older guys, you always learn something new and you change as a person and think about things more. You watch them in practice. You see what they do before practice, how they work out, how they get ready for games. They have so much life experience,” said Reway, singling out a pair of former teammates, in particular, who’ve been important influences along the way. “My first year as a pro, I played with Jaroslav Hlinka. He’s played all over Europe and with the Colorado Avalanche. He really helped me with Sparta. I also spent a lot of time with defenseman Michal Barinka. He tried to teach me things with Sparta, too.”
One of the most important lessons Reway has learned is about playing a two-way game and being responsible defensively. That wasn’t necessarily a top priority before he turned pro in the Czech Republic, but it definitely is now.
“My first two years in the pros, they really think about defense. Especially when you’re more of an offensive player, you only think that you have to score goals, but it’s not all about that. If you don’t play defense at this level, you don’t play. That won’t work. That changes you. I’m thinking more about different aspects of the game than I was before,” said Reway, who is committed to demonstrating his strengths at both ends of the rink to the Canadiens’ brass. “Playing with such good players, it’s easy to find new ways to play and learn and adapt.”
The education process for Reway will continue all summer long as he trains in the Slovakian hockey hotbed of Trencin alongside Detroit Red Wings standout Tomas Tatar. Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara will likely be in town working out and skating, too.
Being surrounded by elite talent like that, it’s safe to say Reway will have all the motivation he needs to make the next few months as productive as possible heading into next season.
“I’m going to have to do everything right and work hard to get ready. It’s going to be a challenge getting ready for the big show and going up against some of the other guys who have the same chance like me. For me, though, it’s really about enjoying the moment,” concluded Reway. “It’s all in my hands. I’m going to come to Montreal and play the best hockey I can play. If I play well, I’ll have a chance to play for the Canadiens. That would be a very special moment, playing against the best players in the NHL.”
Matt Cudzinowsk is a writer for canadiens.com.
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