Only one Colorado Avalanche prospect will don the Canadian jersey this holiday season in the Czech Republic. Canada’s World Juniors selection camp wrapped up yesterday, and Hockey Canada cut nine players on Thursday night as they attempted to finalize their tournament roster. Both of Colorado’s first round draft picks in 2019, Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook, participated in camp this week.
Byram made the team. Newhook did not.
Now, I was able to attend selection camp, and I will get to my observations in a bit, but let me start with some general facts. Players gathered in Oakville on Monday and practiced late that afternoon. They also practiced twice on Tuesday, and played two scrimmages against an all-star team of Canadian university hockey players on Wednesday and Thursday.
Both Byram and Newhook played in both scrimmages against USports, Newhook’s line remained the same in Game 1, but Byram was reunited with Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Calen Addison instead. They played as a pair at the Canada-Russia series in November and looked quite comfortable with each other.
In Game 2, Byram was deployed as the seventh defenseman, but played mostly with 2020 draft eligible defender Jamie Drysdale. Newhook was moved to the top line, playing with Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea and Washington Capitals forward Connor McMichael.
So, how did they actually play?
I got so much flak for not putting Byram on my list of standout players for Game 1. I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t notice him. It’s as simple as that. I found myself having to force myself to pick him out on the ice, which isn’t a good thing.
That being said, maybe he wasn’t a ‘standout’ player, but he still did all of the right things on the ice. He rushed the puck. He closed gaps and pushed players to the outside. He quarterbacked Canada’s top powerplay unit. And he scored a goal from the goal line:
Bowen Byram— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 11, 2019
4-3 Team Canada pic.twitter.com/Yfsku4xEz7
In Game 1, he was the lone defender back on a 3-on-1, which USports scored capitalized on for the game’s opening goal. Byram was more noticeable towards the end of that game, but I wasn’t blown away with his performance in the first game. Having watched his games since the start of the season, I guess I was just expecting more.
Byram had some glaring miscues, especially in Game 2. I counted at least four turnovers. He wasn’t really effective on the powerplay, either — in fact, I thought he looked better killing penalties than he did on the man-advantage.
That game also started badly for him — Byram jumped off of the bench and got into position just in time for a 2-on-1 to develop, which USports scored on. He was paired with Drysdale in this game, and I thought Drysdale outplayed him.
Regardless, there was no way Byram wasn’t making this team. He should see top powerplay minutes at the tournament and hopefully play alongside Addison or New Jersey’s Ty Smith on the first or second pair. A so-so selection camp shouldn’t really impact how he plays at the tournament, and 2020 will likely be Byram’s only opportunity to play at the World Juniors.
First, let me say that it is an utter travesty (and absolutely insane) that Newhook was cut from this team. I wasn’t alone in that thinking:
Honestly, other than Newhook and Harley, I think they kept all of the right players. And Harley was tough given that Canada has Smith and McIsaac as returnees on the left side, plus Byram. Newhook’s omission is crazy.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) December 13, 2019
Weird, thought he was gonna be a lock. https://t.co/LlYCO3coOn— Michael Fenton (@MFents) December 13, 2019
Hindsight is always 20/20, but I don't agree with this one. Thought he was one of the few players who created anything significant at even strength against USports. https://t.co/l2sdIFCjp3— OHL Prospects (@BrockOtten) December 13, 2019
FWIW (not much), I thought Newhook was one of the better players in both games vs. @USPORTSca. Though obviously more than the last 48 hours goes into it.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 13, 2019
From what I was able to see, Newhook was consistently one of Canada’s strongest players. In both games. He was hard on pucks, displayed his speed, created chances, and scored in both games:
Alex Newhook— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 11, 2019
2-1 Team Canada pic.twitter.com/pfD5ZRrPWn
Alex Newhook— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 12, 2019
2-1 USports pic.twitter.com/cardprfBk4
Dawson Mercer got credit for the first goal, but the puck actually deflected off a USports defender and went in. Ah well.
Newhook did take some penalty kill reps, and looked solid when he did. He developed some crazy chemistry with Holloway — they were masterful on the forecheck and down low on the cycle. It was evident that playing (and excelling) against NCAA players this season helped Newhook succeed against USports players, who are the same age as NCAA players, or older.
He was one of Canada’s only standout players in Game 2, where the entire team was neutralized by USports and didn’t generate much offensively.
At the end of the day, Newhook lost out on a spot on Canada’s team, not because he didn’t deserve it or disappoint at camp, but because of factors out of his control. Canada is incredibly deep both at center and with left-shooting forwards. Newhook ticked both of those boxes. He showed his versatility by playing so well on the right-wing, but Canada decided to give the edge to older players — Newhook is still eligible to play next year.
It was definitely disappointing to learn. Newhook played himself into roster contention and definitely made things difficult for the coaching staff and management. I didn’t have him making the team prior to selection camp, but I was convinced he belonged on the team by the end of Thursday’s game. Newhook earned every bit of praise he received this week.
Did you think Alex Newhook would have and should have made Team Canada— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) December 13, 2019
At the end of the day, Canada isn’t worse off without Newhook on their team — they’re just that deep. He’ll go back to Boston, write his exams, and re-join the Eagles when their season picks back up in January.
And hopefully he’s a roster lock for the 2021 Canadian team.