DENVER, COLORADO — This weekend, for the first time since he joined the Colorado Avalanche at the team’s week-long development camp in Denver in late June, Alex Newhook returned to the city that drafted him 16th overall in this past summer’s NHL draft. But this time, however, Newhook was Denver’s adversary.
The No. 1-ranked DU Pioneers welcomed Newhook and the No. 6 Boston College Eagles to town for a two-game set over the weekend. Though Newhook’s Eagles lost in both contests, 3-0 and 6-4 in the two respective games, the Avs’ first-rounder enjoyed his brief vacation back “home.”
“It’s nice. To be back in a familiar place and being here for [development] camp — it’s nice being back,” Newhook said as he was getting ready to pack his bags on the charter bus to Denver International Airport. “And with a little bit of attention around the Avs and stuff like that, it’s cool. It’s been a good weekend.”
On Saturday, Newhook opened the scoring for BC, putting his team up 1-0 on a short-handed goal in the first period, marking both his first career collegiate goal and point. Based on his skill-level and poise, and being just a freshman now only four games into his NCAA career, it’s safe to assume he’ll have plenty more where that came from by the season’s end. After all, Newhook is no newbie to putting up points. He’s been doing it all across Canada, from east to west.
Newhook quite literally went coast-to-coast in pursuit of his NHL dream. Originally from small-town St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada — North America’s easternmost city — Newhook took his talents out west to Victoria, British Columbia — Canada’s westernmost province — where he played with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. There, Newhook made quick work of the British Columbian league.
During his first season there, he tallied 66 points en route to earning rookie of the year honors. The following season, this past year, Newhook annihilated the BCHL. He led the league with 102 points in just 53 games, earning him the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
I asked the 18-year-old Boston College freshman about his transition from bona-fide BCHL superstar to NCAA neophyte.
“It’s been good,” Newhook said. “The older guys have been really good with us incoming freshman. So for us to be able to learn from them and have an easy transition into college has been good. It’s four games in now, so we’re kind of getting our feet wet now which is good. I’m still trying to do as much as I can and try to improve every game here.”
On the note of Boston College, I questioned Newhook about his decision to commit to college rather than join a Canadian major junior league like most NHL prospects are oft seen to do. It was an easy decision for Newhook, though, who made his choice to commit to Boston College even before his BCHL breakout. It’s a decision he proudly pins on his Twitter profile.
“I think it’s hard to deny what BC has to offer,” Newhook said of his Division-I decision. “You look at the amount of pros that they produce and you look at their hockey-and-schooling combination and it’s pretty hard to beat anywhere in the States. For me to come down and to really get the best of both worlds here with the education and the hockey — it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
I talked to Newhook about one player in particular, who is currently playing for the Avalanche, whose career trajectory reminds me a lot of his own. Newhook and Tyson Jost, a fellow first-round selection of Colorado (2016, 10th overall), are strikingly similar. Almost eerily so.
Jost and Newhook are of similar stature (5-foot-11, roughly 190 pounds) and play their respective games in a very similar way. Jost is also a BCHL product (Penticton Vees) who put up 100-plus points and earned the league’s MVP honors (2016) in the same season he was drafted in the NHL — just like Newhook. Newhook was also named as the best forward in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League this past season. Guess who the last BCHL player to win the award was? You guessed it, Tyson Jost.
Jost also went on to play a season in the NCAA with North Dakota instead of joining a major junior team like the rest of his prospective NHL players. By the end of his first collegiate season, Jost jumped to join the Avalanche in the final weeks of the 2016-17 campaign.
“He’s a great player. It’s cool to get compared to him,” Newhook said of Jost before I prodded the BC forward on whether or not he thinks he could make the jump to the NHL after just one collegiate season like Jost did. “For me, it’s just kind of getting settled in here and do as much as I can with this team this year.”
Since the conclusion of Avs development camp this past summer, and though he’s further away from the team in Denver now playing on the east coast, Newhook said he still talks with the Avalanche quite a bit.
“We’re in touch all the time,” said Newhook of the Avs’ maintaining a line of communication with him. “They come and watch and we talk after games and stuff like that. It’s definitely good communication and they’re great with that for sure.”
While talking over the phone with players and coaches over in Denver is all fine and well, Newhook said he’s excited to get back in-person with his teammates and friends he met at development camp and is looking forward to getting back to the NHL grind.
“(It was a) great camp. First time really seeing what the pro schedule was like and how it works up there,” Newhook said of his brief stint in Colorado. “So to get a little taste of that, even if it was only for a week, it was good. I got to meet some of the guys in the organization and other players, other prospects. It was cool and I look forward to the future with them.”
Newhook is in no rush, however. At just 18 years old, he reiterated that he’s taking it step by step, day by day, year by year when it comes to his development. While getting to the NHL as soon as possible is the goal, Newhook knows there is no timeline.
“It’s hard to really judge for now,” Newhook added of whether or not he could see himself on the Avs roster this season or next. “I think I definitely have goals of making that team. But for me it’s kind of just taking it year by year, you know, evaluate it after each year and do as much as I can here while I am here.”