MONTREAL – Are you still picking up wrapping paper around the house and preparing plates of food from Christmas leftovers? Stop everything for now and follow the World Junior Hockey Championship which gets underway today.
You could see the best Junior aged players on the planet as 10 countries will vie for the coveted gold medal in two of Canada’s top hockey markets, Montreal and Toronto. The tournament provides a unique opportunity to see the next crop of stars attempt to ascend the podium in front of hundreds of scouts paying close attention to their every move.
The Canadiens will be well-represented as four prospects will take part in the annual event. Each player hails from a different country, which is proof positive that the Habs’ scouting staff does incredible work scouring the globe for top talent. Canada, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden each boast a Montreal draft pick.
We begin with Team Canada goaltender Zachary Fucale, who will have a chance to play in front of his hometown fans at the Bell Centre. The 19-year-old will be looking to get rid of any and all memories of last year’s tournament when Canada fell to Finland in the semis. For their part, the Finns went on to claim gold. Fucale played five games last December, posting a 2.42 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. The talented netminder posted a 13-9-2 record with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads to start the 2014-15 campaign. A second-round selection of the Canadiens in 2013, Fucale will share the goaltending duties with Eric Comrie.
Another player who will have a chance to perform in front of a spirited Montreal crowd will be Finland’s Artturi Lehkonen. The tournament is particularly special to the 19-year-old Piikkiö native, who will be representing the defending champions after they downed Sweden 3-2 in overtime in last year’s gold medal game. Lehkonen put up two goals and four points in six games in 2014, in addition to amassing a plus-7 differential. This season, Lehkonen is plying his trade with Frölunda in the Swedish Elite League. He has four goals and 11 points in 30 games.
Having led all players on the Slovakian contingent in 2014 with four goals and 10 points, Martin Reway is expecting to have another good tournament in 2015. It’s worth noting that Reway is very familiar with the dimensions of North American rinks, having spent two seasons with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques in 2012-13 and 2013-14. He returned to his native Czech Republic to play for Prague, but the dual citizen will suit up for Slovakia once again. Reway boasts 21 points in 23 games with Prague in 2014-15, which ranks him second on the team in that category.
While Fucale, Lehkonen and Reway will be based primarily in Montreal, Jacob De La Rose will play his games for Team Sweden at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. He won’t have to travel far to get there, though, as he is currently a member of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. De La Rose has a plus-2 differential in 29 games in his first season in North America. He played seven games at least year’s tournament, amassing three goals and six points while also claiming a silver medal.
Now that you know a little bit more about the Canadiens’ prospects participating in the tournament, let’s play hockey!
World Junior Championship Central