The Preliminary Round at the 2015 World Junior Championships has come to an
end and all four representatives from the Montreal Canadiens are moving on to
the Medal Round. Each Hab prospect has had some strong moments in the
first week of the tournament. Here is a look at how each has fared so far
and what’s next for their respective countries.
Jacob de la Rose – Team Sweden
Steady and reliable are a couple of strong ways to describe de la Rose’s play
in the early going. There are players on the Swedish team that are much
flashier and have more raw offensive skill and those are the ones you’ll often
see in the highlights. All de la Rose seems to do is make the right play
and be in the right spot at the right time. While that doesn’t make for an
exciting highlight pack or even the best of stat lines (though he is averaging a
point per game), it makes for a very effective player and that’s what Sweden’s
captain has been so far.
The Swedes were once again perfect through the preliminary round (which is
seemingly becoming an annual tradition lately) but they’re on the tough side of
the playoff bracket. They’ll take on Finland in the Quarterfinals with the
winner moving on to face either USA or Russia.
Zach Fucale – Team Canada
Of the four players from the Canadiens in the tournament, Fucale was the one
with the most questions surrounding him given that the other three all had
cemented roles on the top lines. Today, the same questions still exist
with regards to who Canada’s top goalie should and will be. Fortunately
for Montreal fans, that’s by no fault of Fucale who has played quite well in his
two games, pitching a shutout against Slovakia and allowing just one goal
against Finland (coincidentally by fellow Hab prospect Artturi Lehkonen).
Canada is on the easy side of the bracket and should be able to make the Gold
Medal game with relative ease. They get Denmark in the Quarterfinals and
either the Czechs or Slovaks in the next round. As a result, it’s not
crazy to think that Fucale and Eric Comrie will split these two games with a
decision on who the #1 goalie is to only come before the final contest.
Fucale will get the next crack at trying to claim that top spot as Hockey Canada
announced Thursday that he will be the starter against the Danes.
Artturi Lehkonen – Team Finland
For me, Lehkonen has been the most ‘disappointing’ of Montreal’s prospects so
far. It’s not that he’s playing poorly but given his role, he was expected
to be a much bigger contributor offensively than his one goal against Canada.
His defensive game has been strong and like de la Rose, he’s someone who has
been in the right place at the right time regularly which is a positive.
But, the fact that he was supposed to be an offensive catalyst and hasn’t been,
it’s hard to call Lehkonen’s tournament a success.
As a result of their offensive ineptitude as a team (five goals in four
games), Finland will be the underdogs heading into a rematch of the 2014 Gold
Medal game against Sweden. If there was ever a time for Lehkonen to step
up on the scoresheet, it’s now.
Martin Reway – Team Slovakia
I was expecting the offence to run through him but I’m still surprised at how
much things run through Reway. On the powerplay, Slovakia often will stand
around until he has the puck before beginning to run their play. I don’t
think I’ve seen that before. Overall, I thought Reway was very
underwhelming against Canada (despite getting the Best Player nod in that one)
but he has been much better since then. He’s even seeing some time on the
penalty kill which I certainly didn’t expect.
I don’t think Slovakia has a realistic chance at a medal but they could make
it past the Quarterfinals (vs the Czech Republic) which would be a big
accomplishment for them. For that to happen, Reway will once again have to
lead the way offensively.
For each players’ stats as well as a look at how current Habs and Bulldogs
have done in this tournament, be sure to check our StatTracker, linked below.