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Happy as a Grizzly, Newhook looking forward to soaring like an Eagle

Alex Newhook has returned to the Victoria Grizzlies following a rookie-of-the-year campaign to captain the BCHL team.
Alex Newhook has returned to the Victoria Grizzlies following a rookie-of-the-year campaign to captain the BCHL team. - Contributed

It was a “super hard decision”, but Alex Newhook, a consensus first-round pick in next summer’s NHL Draft, isn’t looking back on his choice to play junior A hockey over major junior this season.

The 17-year-old product of St. John’s was this week pegged in the No. 15 slot for the 2019 draft by TSN draft analyst Bob McKenzie in his pre-season rankings. The Hockey News, in its 2018 Draft edition, had Newhook as the early favorite for No. 2, behind American Jack Hughes, who is No. 1 on everybody’s list.

This came after Newhook was the British Columbia Hockey League’s rookie of the year last season, with 66 points in 45 games with the Victoria Grizzlies.

He was also named Canadian junior A hockey’s top rookie.

“Very smart with the ability to make plays and create offence. More quick than fast, but has a catlike ability to make things happen quickly,” says TSN’s Craig Button.

Newhook last year committed to attend Boston College, and will join the NCAA Eagles next season.

However, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads drafted Newhook 41st overall in 2017 (he almost certainly would have been a top 10 pick had he not specified a preference for college hockey), and the Herd put a heavy push on to get the crafty pivot in the fold this season.

But despite the fact the Mooseheads are playing host to the Memorial Cup next spring, and Halifax’s track record of producing quality NHLers, from Nathan MacKinnon to Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier and Nico Hischier, Newhook is resolute in his decision to go the NCAA route, opting to return to Victoria and captain the Grizzlies.

“Halifax has a lot going for it,” Newhook said, “with the Memorial Cup obviously at the top of the list. It’s a great junior hockey franchise that’s produced a lot of great players, but at the end of the day, I’m comfortable in Victoria. I like living there and I like playing there and to come back as a captain was something I was looking forward to.”

Before heading out west, Newhook spent a year attending St. Andrew’s College north of Toronto, and it was at the prep school that he got to visit a number of American universities.

“St. Andrew’s really stressed education, and I really liked the campuses I visited,” he said. “NCAA is a game and lifestyle I’ve always wanted to pursue.”

There have been a few hockey players from the province who have gone the U.S. collegiate route before turning pro. Dwayne Norris starred for the Michigan State Spartans, Colin Greening spent four years with the Cornell Big Red after one season with Nanaimo of the BCHL and Teddy Purcell stayed one season at the University of Maine before turning pro.

In the meantime, Newhook is “pretty happy” with TSN’s No. 14 ranking, although he “definitely” thinks he could go higher next June in Vancouver.

“I’d like to prove this year that I can be a high pick,” he said, before adding, “but to be ranked 15th this early in the season is still pretty cool.”

Entering last night’s game against the Merritt Centennials, Newhook had four assists in three games so far in Victoria.

robin.short@thetelegram.com

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