The 2015 World Juniors are almost upon us which means two things. One
is that the Habs will be on the road for a while with Montreal co-hosting the
event while the other is that several key prospects in the Canadiens’ system are
going to get another chance to shine on the big stage. Here is a look at
the prospects that will be representing the Habs in the tournament.
Jacob de la Rose – Sweden
One of Montreal’s 2nd rounders in 2013 (34th overall), de la Rose has joined
the Swedish team after getting loaned by the Bulldogs. With Hamilton, he
has been solely in a defensive role but here, de la Rose will have a chance to
rediscover his offensive touch while still being a leader in the defensive end.
He is all but guaranteed to be a top six forward while being a top liner is
likely to happen at the start and it has been a while since he had that type of
role and ice time. In the pre-tournament games, he has been paired up with
fellow returnee Lucas Wallmark on the top trio. As this will be de la
Rose’s third and final appearance at the World Juniors, the Swedes will be
expecting big things from him, their team captain.
Zach Fucale – Canada
Another of Montreal’s 2nd round picks in 2013 (36th overall), Fucale is the
one Montreal prospect in the tournament whose role has yet to be determined.
He is in a battle with Eric Comrie (LA’s 2nd rounder in 2013) for the starting
job for the hometown Canadians and the pre-tournament games haven’t yielded any
true frontrunner for the job. Fucale had a shutout win and an overtime
loss (where he allowed just two goals) in a pair of pre-tournament games and is
one of the returning players from last year. At the same time, Comrie has
been the better goalie in CHL play this year which also has to be considered by
the coaches. Canada’s goaltending situation has been in flux through the
last few World Junior tournaments. I don’t think this year will be any
exception. Fucale should get his chance to play, even if it’s not at the
start. He better be ready to run with it.
Artturi Lehkonen – Finland
The other of Montreal’s 2nd round selections in the 2013 draft (55th
overall), Lehkonen is expected to be one of Finland’s offensive stars in his
third go-around at the tournament. He’s likely to be paired with
Pittsburgh first rounder Kasperi Kapanen on the top line and powerplay unit
while taking a regular shift shorthanded as well. One possible concern for
the Finnish captain is that he’s coming into the World Juniors in an awful slump
(13 straight games without a point for his SHL team) so his confidence level
isn’t particularly high coming in. As he demonstrated early on this season
though, when he gets hot, look out. If he gets going early, he could be a
real threat for the Finns.
Martin Reway – Slovakia
Yet another Canadiens selection in 2013 (116th overall), there is going to be
a lot of pressure on Reway. Last year, he was part of a dominant line that
took the tournament by storm. The diminutive forward is now the lone
holdover from that trio and with all due respect to the rest of their team, he
is by far and away their most talented player. If the Slovaks are going to
make some noise this time around, Reway is going to have to carry the load.
That’s likely a big reason why he is the third Montreal prospect to be named
captain for their country. Unlike Lehkonen, he’s coming into the
tournament playing quite well in the Czech League and, quite frankly, confidence
has never been an issue for Reway. Teams are going to be keying on him for
sure, it’s going to be interesting to see how he fares being the focal point for
The World Juniors get underway on December 26th with all of these four teams
in action. As always, we’ll be keeping tabs on them with our World Juniors
StatTracker which will be posted when the tournament begins.