As a college player coming from the U.S., the Avalanche first-round pick and other NCAA players are being kept separate from main group, for now
Alex Newhook of St. John’s won’t have a lot of time to impress the national junior hockey team’s coaching staff at the team’s selection camp which opened Tuesday in Red Deer, Alta.
That’s because Newhook is in quarantine after crossing the U.S. border last week.
Newhook, one of two Newfoundland hockey players vying for a spot on the squad which will play in the 2021 world junior championship starting next month in Red Deer and Edmonton (joining Dawson Mercer of Bay Roberts), had been in Boston, where he is a second-year forward on U.S. college hockey’s Boston College Eagles.
Fellow NCAA players Devon Levi (Boston’s Northeastern University) and Dylan Holloway (University of Wisconsin) are also in quarantine in Red Deer.
Newhook arrived in Canada last weekend, and will be in quarantine for 14 days.
Until quarantine is completed, that means he won't be able to participate in a full practice with the others at camp, and he won’t be taking part in three Red-White intrasquad games, or a couple of exhibition games against a team comprised of USports Canadian university players.
So there’s not a big window of opportunity to catch the eye of the coaching staff.
Newhook, Levi and Holloway are not part of the main training camp, said head coach Andre Tourigny. They are separated from the other players at the team’s hotel and only permitted to skate in a small group while they complete their quarantine.
Still, Tourigny is confident there will be enough time to evaluate the players before the final cuts come, and/or when the team transfers its camp from Red Deer to Edmonton.
“They’re in a separate group now with our skills coach,” Tourigny told reporters in a Zoom video conference with reporters late Tuesday night. “I think they’ll be in super good shape.
“We’ll have time to evaluate them, make them understand the systems. Every day, we do video with them to make sure they understand what the other guys practiced.
“We’re really confident they will be on pace when they’re able to join the rest of the group.”
Tourigny said the four have been tested for COVID-19 and Hockey Canada is waiting for the results.
“We don’t want to bring anybody into our bubble before we get test results,” he said. “We are in no rush. It’s not like the tournament starts tomorrow or even next week (Canada’s first game is Christmas Day). We want to make sure everyone is super safe. Safety of our players and staff is first and foremost.”
Hockey Canada did not consider bringing the NCAA players to Canada earlier so as to quarantine and return to the ice in time for practice and intra-squad games.
“That would mean asking those players to remove themselves from their NCAA teams, which was something we didn’t want to do given the length of the camp (just shy of a month),” said Hockey Canada manager of communications, Spencer Sharkey.
Newhook attended last year’s Canadian junior selection camp, although he was one of the late cuts from the team. As a freshman at BC last season, he collected 19 goals and 42 points in 34 games.
He was named both the Hockey East conference and NCAA Division I rookie of the year.
Newhook was the 16th overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Mercer, from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens, is one of six returnees who won gold at the 2020 World Juniors in the Czech Republic.
The Sagueneens were one of the teams to be shut down by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League because of a positive COVID-19 test. As a result, players and hockey staff were isolated and tested.
Mercer had completed his quarantine prior to the start of the world junior camp.
He was drafted 18th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.