Sometimes you just have to admit you were wrong, and that is especially true in this business. No player was more overlooked by myself than Alex Newhook, a Canadian-born center playing in the BCHL. Players will naturally rise and fall over the course of the year as they continue to reveal who they really are. But with Newhook, this was a flat-out misevaluation on my part. He has always been a star talent.
Newhook came in as my 30th ranked player at midterm. The BCHL can be a difficult league to get a read on. The lower tier competition can mask low hockey IQ for highly skilled players. Newhook’s dominance of the Junior-A league was not good enough for me to consider him in the top-20. His performances at the World Junior-A Challenge and CJHL Top Prospects Game were nothing special, and left me hesitant to dub him a top-prospect.
But by late March I started to turn the corner. I continuously saw an electrifying player that could make special plays with his feet, hands, and mind. While it may not be the same league, the promise that former top-5 pick Cale Makar is showing after playing his underage hockey in the AJHL taught me not to let the league scare you away from ultra skilled players.
|Birthday||January 28, 2001|
Skating: 70 – Puck Skills: 60 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 55 – Physicality: 50
Newhook is a jump-off-the-screen kind of talent. He is a difference-maker who can command the game at will. The challenge that playing in the BCHL poses is any player with elite tools can come in and dominate. It’s very easy to get away with things you wouldn’t be able to at the next level because of the underwhelming competition. But with consistency over the last two seasons, as well as a dominant performance at the U18s removed the asterisk from Newhook’s name. There is every reason to buy into his skill-set which is built for stardom.
Newhook stands out the way he does because of his elite skating ability, which has made a case for best in the draft. He creates so much offense with his feet and it all starts with his control of the neutral zone. When he gets on his horse there are not many defenders who can slow him down. One of the keys to how he generates so much explosiveness is by gliding as little as possible when driving the puck up ice.
Nearly every aspect of Newhook’s skating is elite. Top-speed, first-step, foot work, edge work, explosiveness — he does it all. He pushes the pace of play at an exceptional rate and is one of the biggest threats from this draft off the rush.
But there is much more to his game. Newhook is a top playmaker, having the puck skills, vision, and smarts to make plays. He can make the flashy move to get around defenders and open up lanes. He sees the ice well and can identified the play he wants to make before he even gets the puck. A sign of strong hockey sense and offensive awareness.
By midseason, Newhook was truly dominant, showing significant growth as the year went on. Its plays like this that make him a dynamic pivot:
The high-end plays he is able to make made him a force in the BCHL. He was too quick and too skilled to contain.
Speaking of his brilliant run in the BCHL, lets take a closer look at what he did. I’m not one to look too deep into statistics but when it comes to these junior-A players, I need to see something. The competition is too weak to not set a standard. To begin the year I had a two points per game threshold for Newhook to meet. He came up just short with 1.92 points per game (38 goals and 102 points in 53 games), but looking at his end-season he was producing at that rate without much trouble. A slow start brought his numbers down slightly.
The BCHL hasn’t had too many top-10 picks — with Tyson Jost and Kyle Turris being the only recent products to go that high.
When comparing the trio’s points per game, the results are quite interesting. Newhook was by far the best of the three in his draft minus-one season, but the weakest in his draft year. Nonetheless, Newhook remain consistent over the two-year sample size and sustained his high-end play for a longer period of time.
Originally I was down on Newhook because I wanted to see more from him outside of the BCHL. He was disappointing at the World Junior-A Challenge and CJHL Top Prospects Game, but that was just a 7 game sample size. Likewise, he was a dominating presence in the U18s which was also a 7 game sample. What that means to me is he is capable of playing against better competition at a high level, but that can’t be the deciding factor of where to place him in the rankings.
Ultimately, I saw enough in the BCHL to buy into his electrifying skill-set. It’s a risk that not everyone is willing to take. But for me, I see real potential in him to become a game-changing first-line center in the NHL. Newhook’s style is so attractive, and I just can’t pass up the kind of potential he has that is backed up by the eye test.
Newhook will be playing for Boston College next season. Going the collegiate route is the main reason Newhook played in the BCHL instead of with Halifax in the QMJHL — as serving anytime in the CHL makes you ineligible to play in the NCAA. Newhook will be joined by fellow top prospects like Matthew Boldy and Spencer Knight at BC.
I’m expecting Newhook to have a big season for the Eagles. Both Jost and Turris scored around a point per game in their freshman year, and I’m anticipating Newhook will do the same. Upon turning pro, Newhook should be able to step into an NHL lineup right away. If what we saw in Victoria is real, he should have no problem translating to the NHL as soon as he leaves college.