Having packed up and flown to Sweden on Saturday, it wasn’t the spring trip Alex Newhook had planned.
The projected first round 2019 NHL draft pick joined Canada’s U18 men’s team for the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship, April 18-28 in Örnsköldsvik and Umeå, Sweden.
But he’d rather be back in B.C., playing for the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL final, he said.
“Going to [U18 worlds] is huge for me but it wasn’t something that I had on my list of possibilities. I thought we could make the final.”
To be clear, Newhook will return to finish high school at Belmont secondary following the U18 championships, wrapping up an exciting two-and-a-half months of studying and on-ice training before the June 21 NHL Draft in Vancouver. Newhook is then headed to Boston College for the fall, where he’ll play for one of the premier NCAA men’s hockey programs.
“Victoria’s a special place,” he said. “Combined with the team and everyone around, I’ll miss it a lot, it’ll be close to home for me forever.”
A huge THANK YOU to our amazing fans, sponsors and volunteers from the Victoria Grizzlies players and staff for an amazing 2018-19 season and playoff run!— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) April 3, 2019
We will see you all next season!#WeAreGrizzlies pic.twitter.com/WyMjo7Rqsx
In his second year as a Grizzly, the 18-year-old Newhook lit up the BCHL, winning the top-scorer Brett Hull Award with 1.92 points per game, collecting 38 goals and 64 assists in 102 games and earning the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as the league MVP.
His league-leading 24 playoff points (in 15 games) are six more than the leading scorers from the BCHL finalist Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers. He scored both of the Grizzlies goals in their elimination game on April 2, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings.
The playoffs have helped his draft prospects as more than a few analysts have him projected as a top-10 NHL draft pick.
When he looks back, Newhook believes Game 7 against the Powell River Kings, a 6-1 home win at The Q Centre, will stand out amongst his time here.
“For me and the guys who were here last year and were knocked out by Powell River in the playoffs, to come back and take them out in front of our fans was a special night and something I’ll never forget.”
As tough as it was, losing to the Spruce Kings will also stand out, he said.
Grizzlies players say goodbye in ‘bittersweet’ farewell https://t.co/PCBjkAtdzv— Oak Bay News (@OakBayNews) April 9, 2019
“Just the relationships and being in the [semifinals] made it special,” Newhook said.
Newhook is one of many players moving on from the Grizzlies - New York Rangers draftee Riley Hughes is headed to Northeastern with defenceman Jeremy Bucheler, Carter Berger is headed to Connecticut. Kenny Johnson is going to University of Michigan. Ryan Nolan is likely headed to Merrimack.
At 18, Alex Campbell (the 2018-19 BCHL rookie of the year) is likely to return to the Grizzlies for another season before heading to Clarkson.
For Newhook, the time is right. From the start of his junior hockey career he wanted to follow the college route, having seen how it worked for players such as Tyson Jost. Incidentally, Jost, who was drafted 10th overall in 2017, is the same size as Newhook, five-foot-11 and 190 pounds. An Alberta product, Jost played two years for the Penticton Vees, one year for North Dakota, and is now a regular member of the Colorado Avalanche at 21 years of age.
“After I had a great first year I had no reason to alter my plan, so coming back was a place where I was comfortable and I’m happy with my decision,” Newhook said. “I saw players like Tyson Jost, who was dominant, and wanted to go that route.
“It took some time to get used to the pace of the play here, but seeing what it’s like, it opened my eyes to different possibilities. I came without expectations, I just wanted to learn and have a few good years in Victoria.”