Alex Newhook believes college hockey is the best path to help him reach the NHL. And he was determined to stay on that path even if it took him 4,400 miles from home.
Newhook, a native of St. John's, Newfoundland, spent the past two seasons with Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League developing into a top prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The first round is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
The 18-year-old center is No. 13 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft. He would be the first Newfoundland native to be selected in the first round since Daniel Cleary was chosen by the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 13 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft.
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But when Newhook turned 14, he realized leaving the island province was a necessity. He spent two seasons in Ontario, playing his bantam and minor midget seasons with the York Simcoe Express and St. Andrews College. Then last season he moved to Canada's west coast to play for Victoria.
"The parents went through a bit of a tough time, first kid moving away, especially at that young age," Newhook said. "They've put me before them so many times, that's just another example of it. Me being able to go away at that time of my life, with the help of my parents, was the best thing that happened in my life to this point. Really helped me development-wise, really helped me as a person develop. I'm super-thankful for that."
Newhook made the most of his opportunity in the BCHL, winning the league rookie of the year award after leading first-year players with 66 points (22 goals, 44 assists) in 45 games.
This season he led the league with 102 points (38 goals, 64 assists) and was named most valuable player.
"Alex Newhook is a player that we've seen a lot of the last two years," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He's got speed, hockey sense, scoring touch. He's not a big guy (5-foot-10, 192 pounds) but he's a solid guy on his feet. ... We've never had a down period with Newhook."
The only bump in Newhook's season came during a scrimmage ahead of the World Junior A Challenge in December, when a collision left him with a sprained capsule in his right knee. He had four assists in six games during the tournament but said the injury lingered for about a month after it ended.
"When he came back he wasn't 100 percent for five or six games and then he found that gear again," Victoria coach/general manager Craig Didmon said.
Newhook also was Victoria's captain and Didmon said he was impressed by how he knew what to say and what music to play.
Newhook plays guitar and used to play the trombone in a school band, and said he uses an eclectic taste in music that runs from rap to country to alternative to relax when the pressure of the game has crept in, and to set the pregame locker room play list.
"It was a pretty good one too," Didmon said. "He had it timed, right songs at right times. He was a true captain, covered all parts very well."
Video: Newhook's hockey dreams have gone from coast-to-coast
Newhook finished his season strong with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in seven games for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, tied for fifth among all skaters.
"It was a great experience," he said. "Getting back on that international stage with top players in Canada, top players in the world, it's pretty cool to be on that stage. I think our team could have done a bit better, not medaling, but a great experience overall. Having that opportunity to play on a line with pretty good players and establishing myself as one of the top players in this class and a top guy for our age group was something I think I did well. And I'm proud of the way that went."
After the draft, Newhook will be a bit closer to home. He's committed to Boston College starting next season, 1,481 miles from St. John's. It's also closer to his sister, Abby, 16, who attends Tabor Academy in Marian, Massachusetts, and also committed to attend Boston College.
"When I went down there I got a really good connection from the coaching staff," Newhook said. "That's a really huge part of any team. Once you get that connection it definitely carries over. The college lifestyle, the college schedule, being able to get bigger and stronger while playing in college against top competition, good schooling, it's really a great way of living, a great way of playing hockey and something I'm looking forward to."
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