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Looking Forward: Alex Newhook’s Quest to Become a Top Six Center for the Avalanche

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It looks pretty likely that he’ll reach his goal.

Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden
Alex Newhook Pots One Top-Shelf for Boston College During the 2019-20 Season.
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The World Junior Championships (WJCs) are right around the corner (hopefully), and there are four prospects from the Colorado Avalanche who have a chance to suit up and represent either the United States or Canada this year.

Star NCAA player, Alex Newhook, has joined fellow organizational prospects, Justin Barron, Bowen Byram, and Drew Helleson as roster hopefuls for the tournament that will take place over Christmas.

Suffice to say, Newhook is ready to represent his country, and the sting of missing last year’s team has only made him more driven this year. Here’s what he had to say in a recent article published by The Athletic (sub required):

“For me, (the world juniors) is the only thing that has been set in stone this whole time...This is something I have had set in my mind for a long time. Especially when you add how much I want to be there because of last year. I am excited to get back there and whatever the process may be, I am excited to go through it and get there.”

Spurned from last year’s squad, Newhook is driven to make sure the same result doesn’t happen this year. And, if all goes well, Avalanche fans could see one of this year’s Hobey Baker favorites suit up in Burgundy and Blue sooner than later.

In a continuation of the Looking Forward series, today we’re taking a look at Alex Newhook.

First, let’s take a look at the season Newhook had for Boston College last year.

Alex Newhook Lit Up the NCAA During the 2019-20 Season

Newhook’s 19-20 performance is a tale of two seasons: before being snubbed from the WJC roster and after being snubbed.

  • Before being invited to Canada’s WJC camp, Newhook was finding his place as a freshman on Boston College’s roster. He was playing wing on the third line mostly and had 12 points (6g and 6a) in 15 games.
  • Then he was invited to the camp and seemed a lock to make the team, but he was unexpectedly cut despite a strong showing. Most people who scout and write about young NHL talent were baffled by the decision:
  • Alas, he was cut and returned to Boston College to prove it was a poor decision. And boy, did he ever prove it.

After being moved up the lineup to center Boston College’s freshman line, Newhook had 30 points over the final 19 games of the season after the WJCs, which included a span in February where he had 20 points in nine games. He was dominant, winning the Tim Taylor Award as the best first-year player in NCAA Men’s Division I ice hockey (stats courtesy of bceagles.com).

Now, he’s in the midst of another WJC camp, where COVID-19 is causing more questions than answers right now, but most think he’s likely to make the team out of camp this year (The Athletic, sub required).

With a great showing at the WJCs and a strong season at Boston College, when he returns to play NCAA hockey, Newhook will be in line for an ELC and possibly a spot on the 2021-22 Avalanche roster.

That begs the question: what impact can be expected from the young star when he reaches the NHL? Let’s take a look at some similar NCAA players over the years to find out.

How Does Alex Newhook Stack Up to Other NCAA Leaders?

Player Name Drafted Year Goals 1st NCAA Season Assists 1st NCAA Season Points 1st NCAA Season Career PPG in NCAA Time Spent in NCAA Goals 1st NHL Season Assists 1st NHL Season Points 1st NHL Season Career PPG in NHL
Player Name Drafted Year Goals 1st NCAA Season Assists 1st NCAA Season Points 1st NCAA Season Career PPG in NCAA Time Spent in NCAA Goals 1st NHL Season Assists 1st NHL Season Points 1st NHL Season Career PPG in NHL
Alex Newhook 16th Overall 2019 19G 23A 42P (1.24 ppg) 1.24 ppg 1 Season N/A N/A N/A N/A
Clayton Keller 7th Overall 2016 21G 24A 45P (1.45 ppg) 1.45 ppg 1 Season 23G 42A 65P (.79 ppg) .66 ppg
Tyson Jost 10th Overall 2016 16G 19A 35P (1.06 ppg) 1.06 ppg 1 Season 12G 10A 22P (.34 ppg) .35 ppg
Henrik Borgstrom 23rd Overall 2016 22G 21A 43P (1.16 ppg) 1.23 ppg 2 Seasons 8G 10A 18P (.36 ppg) .33 ppg
Jack Eichel 2nd Overall 2015 26G 45A 71P (1.78 ppg) 1.78 ppg 1 Season 24G 32A 56P (.69 ppg) .95 ppg
Kyle Connor 17th Overall 2015 35G 36A 71P (1.87 ppg) 1.87 ppg 1 Season 31G 26A 57P (.75 ppg) .81 ppg
Brock Boeser 23rd Overall 2015 27G 33A 60P (1.43 ppg) 1.27 ppg 2 Seasons 29G 26A 55P (.89 ppg) .82 ppg
Dylan Larkin 15th Overall 2014 15G 32A 47P (1.34 ppg) 1.34 ppg 1 Season 23G 22A 45P (.56 ppg) .68 ppg
J.T. Compher 35th Overall 2013 11G 20A 31P (.89 ppg) 1.10 ppg 3 Seasons 13G 10A 23P (.33 ppg) .41 ppg
Jake Guentzel 77th Overall 2013 7G 27A 34P (.92 ppg) 1.10 ppg 3 Seasons 16G 17A 33P (.83 ppg) .82 ppg
Johnny Gaudreau 104th Overall 2011 21G 23A 44P (1 ppg) 1.47 ppg 3 Seasons 24G 40A 64P (.80 ppg) .96 ppg
Jaden Schwartz 14th Overall 2010 17G 30A 47P (1.57 ppg) 1.47 ppg 2 Seasons 7G 6A 13P (.29 ppg) .7 ppg
Kevin Hayes 24th Overall 2010 4G 10A 14P (.45 ppg) .93 ppg 4 Seasons 17G 28A 45P (.57 ppg) .6 ppg
Jonathan Toews 3rd Overall 2006 22G 17A 39P (.93 ppg) 1.12 ppg 2 Seasons 24G 30A 54P (.84 ppg) .86 ppg
T.J. Oshie 24th Overall 2005 24G 21A 45P (1.02 ppg) 1.10 ppg 3 Seasons 14G 25A 39P (.68 ppg) .71 ppg
Blake Wheeler 5th Overall 2004 9G 14A 23P (.59 ppg) .76 ppg 3 Seasons 21G 24A 45P (.56 ppg) .82 ppg
Get a glimpse of how Alex Newhook compares to similar NCAA players All stats compiled from eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

A few things stand out from this comparison table:

  • There are some franchise players on the list. Jonathan Toews led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups, Jack Eichel is solidifying himself as a franchise No. 1 center, and Blake Wheeler and Johnny Gaudreau have been first-line stalwarts for their teams.
  • However, the list also features some underachievers in Tyson Jost and Henrik Borgstrom. You could also include Clayton Keller in this list, as he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential after a scorcher of a rookie season. They’re all quite young though, so the verdict is still out.
  • The rest of the list is comprised of young up-and-comers starting to make their impact and wily veterans who have peddled their craft well over the course of long NHL careers.
  • The average length of time a player stays at the collegiate level from this list is 2 seasons. However, recently that trend has been bucked, as you can see at the top of the table.

Alex Newhook’s ppg totals in his first season in the NCAA stack up pretty well with the talent on this list. He has the seventh highest total of Freshman players.

If he played at the clip he did in February (when he really hit his stride) over the course of his 34 games, he would have had 76 points, a 2.2 ppg rate. That would have put him at the top of the list. He’s more likely in the middle of these two outcomes, as players can get on heaters that aren’t representative of their overall ability, but it’s clear he stacks up well with similar NCAA talent since 2004.

What is Alex Newhook’s Ceiling and Floor?

As Doc Emrick once said, “one man’s floor, another man’s ceiling” when referring to the vast chasm between the two prevailing emotions players feel at the conclusion of a Stanley Cup Final. In this vein, one man has a floor and a ceiling at the NHL level when it comes to their development curve, and their ultimate impact.

What can be expected from Alex Newhook considering the numbers above? Based on the data? Between .33 and .96 ppg over the course of his career. Realistically? Alex Newhook is likely the future second line center of the Colorado Avalanche, which means he’ll always be stuck behind Nathan MacKinnon. That means the team is asking him to produce between 45-60 points a year, which is absolutely doable for Newhook.

Here’s the thing though, Scott Wheeler has consistently ranked Newhook as one of the best prospects in the world, and even did an in-depth analysis of him (The Athletic, sub required) in his “The Gifted” series, which is reserved for the rare prospects that are “different from everyone else in approach or ability”.

Corey Pronman is not shy about his appreciation of Newhook either (The Athletic, sub required), ranking him, as a prospect, in the tier High-End/Very Good Bubble which he defines as a player who “is a first-line forward/top-six forward”.

So, while Newhook is the likely replacement for Nazem Kadri as the 2nd line center at the conclusion of Kadri’s contract, he also has the ability to play wing and could be featured on the first line as a winger. Furthermore, if he continues to develop, there’s a chance (a small chance) he could become a solid 1-2 punch behind MacKinnon akin to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Auston Matthews and John Tavares, or Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos.

Imagine two speedsters like Newhook and MacKinnon blitzing opponents with their straight-line skating and agile edge ability every year on the way to multiple Stanley Cups. It’s not out of the question.

Regardless, the Colorado Avalanche have a solid prospect on their hands with Newhook, and his time in Burgundy and Blue is approaching quickly.

Next up in the Looking Forward series: Shane Bowers