Montreal Canadiens Prospects to Watch at 2014 World Junior Championships
The 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships are almost upon us, and fans of the Montreal Canadiens will have plenty of exciting prospects to watch for when the annual holiday tournament kicks off.
The Habs have done an excellent job drafting in recent years, and the Canadiens will be well represented in Malmo, Sweden.
Six Montreal prospects were named to their respective countries' selection camps and all are expected to be in the lineup when the tournament begins on Boxing Day.
Here are the Montreal Canadiens prospects to watch at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Martin Reway, Slovakia
Martin Reway is an 18-year-old forward currently playing for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. He was selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round, 116th overall, in the 2013 entry draft.
Reway is a small, skilled forward who can score. Standing just 5'9" and weighing 175 pounds, he'll certainly need to bulk up if he's to make it as a pro. He is described by HockeysFuture.com as "a high risk prospect with top-six potential."
The young Slovakian is having a nice season in the CHL and has earned the right to represent his country because of it. In 25 games with Gatineau, he has scored 14 times and added 27 assists for 41 points. He sits second in team scoring.
He will be one of just four drafted forwards who will suit up for Slovakia, so it's probably a safe bet that Reway will see a regular shift and some power-play time.
Slovakia finds itself in group A along with Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and the USA.
Sebastian Collberg, Sweden
The Montreal Canadiens will have two of their better prospects suiting up for Team Sweden, with one of those being Sebastian Collberg.
Montreal drafted Collberg in the second round of the 2012 draft, 33rd overall. He is currently playing for Frolunda of the SHL (Swedish Hockey League), where he has four points in 25 games while averaging just over 11 minutes of ice time per game.
Amazingly, this year's tournament will be Collberg's third WJC.
Two years ago, he was named to Sweden's 2012 squad that won gold. As one of the youngest players in the tournament, Collberg managed an impressive seven points (4 G, 3 A) to finish second in team scoring.
Last year, Collberg had four goals and two assists as Team Sweden finished with a silver medal. Collberg scored the shootout winner against Russia in the semifinals before his team eventually lost to Team USA in the gold-medal game.
Needless to say, Sweden will be counting on Collberg to produce as it looks for success on home soil. He has been superb so far in international play and will look for that to continue at the 2014 tournament.
Jacob De La Rose, Sweden
Jacob de la Rose is Montreal's other prospect who will be lining up for Sweden at the World Juniors. He was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, 34th overall.
He is currently playing in the SHL for Leksands IF, where he has five goals and five assists in 31 games.
De la Rose is a big center who can skate—two qualities that have Canadiens fans very excited.
He is 6'2", 176 pounds and has "great speed and excellent acceleration," at least according to Ben Kerr at Last Word on Sports. He plays a physical, two-way game and has the potential to be a power forward in the NHL.
The 2014 tournament will be de la Rose's second WJC. He was held off the scoresheet and finished as a plus-one last year. He also captained Sweden's Under-18 squad in 2013.
De la Rose will likely be counted on to play a key role up front for Sweden at this year's tournament. He should slide into a top-six role as Sweden's competes for gold on home ice.
Artturi Lehkonen, Finland
Artturi Lehkonen was one of Montreal's second-round picks in 2013, chosen 55th overall. He is currently playing for KalPa in the Finnish Elite League (formerly SM-liiga). He has 20 points (7 G, 13 A) in 33 games this season.
Lehkonen is a small (5'11", 160 pounds), highly skilled forward. Arik Parnass of Habs Eyes on the Prize describes him as a "a pure goal-scorer" with "an exciting all-around offensive talent." The 18-year-old features a top-end wrist shot as one of his best attributes.
The 2014 World Juniors will be Lehkonen's second under-20 tournament.
Last year, he appeared in six games and recorded three goals and an assist. Finland failed to move past the group stage but survived the relegation round.
Lehkonen also played for Finland at the 2013 World Under-18 Hockey Championships, where he helped lead his country to a bronze medal. He finished the tournament tied for fourth in scoring with three goals and six assists in seven games.
Finland will certainly be looking for a better result in this year's WJC, and Lehkonen will likely be counted on to help provide the team with an offensive spark. He is one of just four drafted forwards on Team Finland and should get both top-six and power-play minutes.
Charles Hudon, Canada
Charles Hudon was taken in the fifth round (122nd overall) of the 2012 draft. He has developed quite nicely for such a late pick and currently ranks as one of Montreal's top prospects.
The 19-year-old is currently playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. He leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 27 assists in 33 games. He also led the Sagueneens in scoring last season with 71 points in 56 games.
It should be obvious from his numbers, but in case you didn't notice, Hudon is a scorer.
At 5'10", 171 pounds, he is undersized, but his offensive talent can't be underestimated. He is "blessed with superior hockey sense, a great vision and quick hands which allow him to control the play in the offensive zone", according to Hockeys Future. He is also described as "a wizard with the puck" by Habs Eyes on the Prize.
Hudon was named to Team Canada's World Junior squad last season but had to withdraw because of a back injury.
He has previously appeared on the international stage for Canada, at the 2011 World Under-18 tournament and at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
As an under-aged forward at the U18 tournament, Hudon did not see much ice time. He was a key contributor at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, however, recording an impressive five goals and nine assists in just five games.
Canada returns just one forward to this year's competition (Jonathan Drouin), so it's difficult to envision what sort of role coach Brent Sutter has in mind for Hudon.
He did have success lining up with Drouin and Anthony Mantha for Team QMJHL in the Subway Super Series earlier this year. The line accounted for four goals and seven assists in the two games they played together.
Canada kicks off the 2014 tournament against Germany on December 26. Hudon will hope to provide offense for a team that hasn't won gold since 2009.
Zachary Fucale, Canada
The Montreal Canadiens made Zachary Fucale the first goaltender taken in the 2013 draft, No. 36 overall. He is currently playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, where he is enjoying another solid season.
A year after backstopping the Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup championship, Fucale has a 19-7-1 record to go along with a 2.51 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. He's now prepared to lead Canada at the 2014 World Juniors.
Fucale is competing with Jake Paterson for the starting job, but it appears he is the favorite, at least according to Jamie McLellan of TSN. Fucale would be a good choice for coach Brent Sutter, as he appears to have both the talent and the demeanor one needs to be successful as Canada's starting goalie.
He is often described as cool and calm in the goal and never seems to get rattled. He has succeeded in high-pressure situations before, as he has played some of his best games during the QMJHL playoffs, the Memorial Cup and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. These are qualities Canada needs for its starting goaltender.
Being named Team Canada's starting goalie for the World Juniors always comes with a lot of pressure, but there might be even more than ever this year. Canada hasn't won a gold medal since 2009, and a string of mediocre goaltending performances at key moments has been a big reason why.
Fucale will hope to reverse that trend this year by leading his country to gold, much like Carey Price did six years ago when he was named tournament MVP.