St. John’s native and Colorado first-round pick, already in Denver, where team's prospect camp gets underway this week
That the Colorado Avalanche selected St. John’s native Alex Newhook with the 16th overall pick of the National Hockey League Entry Draft isn’t that surprising.
After all, most predictions had Newhook going somewhere in middle part of Friday’s 31-pick first round; the Avs had interviewed him extensively leading up to the draft; and they had a history of drafting players out of the junior A ranks like Newhook, who spent the past two seasons with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies. Forward Tyson Jost and defenceman Cale Makar are Avalanche players who were drafted in the first round when they were in junior A leagues.
As well, Colorado was likely focused on a forward. It had already picked a defenceman, Bowen Byram, with the fourth overall pick, and the goaltender the Avalanche might have had interest in, Spencer Knight, was already gone, taken 13th by the Florida Panthers.
But even though the Avalanche choosing Newhook where they did wasn’t shocking, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t exciting.
“It was pretty cool when it happened,” said Shawn Newhook, Alex’s father, who attended the draft in Vancouver. “No, I don’t think you could call it a huge surprise.
“Colorado was obviously interested. They had already met with him (NHL Draft Combine earlier this month in Buffalo), but they had him in for a second meeting. Actually, Paula (Alex’s mon) had to drive him over to see (Avs general manager) Joe Sakic earlier in the week.
“So they had a couple of extra chats with him and the interviews went a little longer than normal. It seems to be a pretty good fit.
“It was really exciting when it happened.”
There were plenty of people to share in that excitement. Beside Shawn and Paula and their daughter Abby, a fine hockey player in her own right, there were about 30 family members in attendance at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.
But the loudest contingent of Newhook supporters might have been a group of young men seated one section over.
They were 11 of Newhook’s teammates on the Grizzlies, who had travelled to Vancouver to show support for Newhook, who had been Victoria’s team captain this past season, and for Carter Berger, another Grizzlies player who would be a selection on Saturday’s second day of the draft.
They were loud and proud, wearing various jerseys, most with Newhook’s name, and carrying a Newfoundland flag, even though they were from other parts of the country. It made for a lot of fun and the video of them congratulating Newhook in a group hug after he had been drafted has gone viral.
But while Shawn Newhook got a kick out of the goings-on, he also agreed it added to the pride he felt in his son, recognizing that the attendance — and enthusiasm — of his fellow Grizzlies showed what they thought of Alex as a person and as a friend.
“They’re an awesome group of guys and they were pretty amped up,” said Shawn Newhook.
“On a hockey team light that, you spend so much time with each other, you’re almost like brothers, but they were an especially tight group.
“I think where he was their captain and everything, they had a lot of respect for him. The chats we had with those guys, they had nothing but positive things to say about Alex. And that was great to hear, because along with everything else, you want your children to be grounded and down to earth, and I think he is all that .
“I think those guys kind of respected that and wanted to be a part of it.”
The Newhooks headed home Sunday. The original plan was for Alex to accompany them back to St. John’s, but that was before they knew which team would draft him.
The Avalanche are holding their prospects development camp in Denver this week and that meant Alex left for Colorado early Sunday morning.
“They took a few of them out early so they could show them around, get them acclimatized as soon as possible,” said Shawn.
Of course, Alex has already been welcomed by the Avalanche, albeit in Vancouver. And then there was a call from Colorado’s star player.
“Nathan McKinnon reached out and had a chat with him,” said Shawn. “They had already met. When Alex went to Halifax for a visit with the Mooseheads (the QMJHL team that had drafted Newhook), he was out to dinner (with McKinnon).
“But Alex still thought getting the call was pretty neat.”
Alex will get to St. John’s after the development camp, but will be on the move again in late July.
The 18-year-old, who was the BCHL’s leading scorer in 2018-19, the most valuable player in all of Canadian junior A hockey and the co-leading scorer the most recent Canadian world under-18 team, will be attending Hockey Canada’s summer showcase camp for prospects for the 2020 world junior team. That late July-early August event, which also involves exhibition games against American Swedish and Finnish teams, is being held in Plymouth, Mich.
And the summertime travel won‘t end there. Alex Newhook, who will attend Boston College this fall, will be going to Boston for school orientation in mid-August and his father says he is considering staying on for the remainder of the month to skate and work out with friends there.