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Alex Newhook officially signs with the Colorado Avalanche

Keaton Middleton and Liam O’Brien also get upgraded to NHL contracts

Boston College v Massachusetts-Lowell Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Less than two weeks before the trade deadline the Colorado Avalanche were busy adding extra depth before their playoff run. Three players inked deals in the last 24 hours, each in different circumstances.

First, the highly anticipated signing of 2019 16th overall pick Alex Newhook. After his sophomore season at Boston College concluded on Sunday night it was expected only a matter of time before he made the decision to turn pro and sign his Entry Level Contract.

The devil is always in the details and it could have gone either way if the Avalanche were going to begin the contract in the current season or wait until 2021-22 for the three-year pact to kick in. After teammates and 2019 draft peers Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield each got their first year burned then it seemed like Newhook’s deal was going to head that direction as well.

Newhook is expected to first join the Colorado Eagles in the AHL, which is a smart plan because he only played in 12 games with Boston College plus a handful more in the World Junior Championship. Some time to get acclimated to the pro game and Avalanche system will be beneficial but with a current year NHL contract Newhook is eligible to get a recall to the Avalanche taxi squad or main roster at any time.

The Avalanche also upgraded two Colorado Eagles players who were on AHL contracts to NHL deals. Forward Liam O’Brien who played 17 games total with the Washington Capitals as recent as the 2017-18 season was having a decent year with the Eagles in mainly a third line role with eight points in 12 games. With a lot of forward depth available to the Avalanche such as Kiefer Sherwood, Martin Kaut and Shane Bowers including the aforementioned Newhook among others it begs the question of why they needed another forward taking up a NHL contract spot. It’s not a stretch to wonder if the Avalanche want to have a fighter available to combat some of the physical nastiness they just encountered from the likes of Vegas and Anaheim. O’Brien is signed at $700k per Cap Friendly for the remainder of this season with likely UFA status at the conclusion of 2020-21.

Defenseman Keaton Middleton is a former fourth round 2016 Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick who went unsigned and spent time in the San Jose Sharks system before signing with the Eagles last offseason. In an opposite situation to their forward depth, Avalanche were getting thin on NHL contracted defensemen and Middleton can now spend time on the taxi squad if needed. He should not be an option for the big club however with one point and a -12 in 14 games for the Eagles, Middleton does not have a NHL ceiling to offer. Due to his age (23) and with no previous NHL deal Middleton required an Entry Level Contract of two-years which will run through the 2021-22 season.

The Avalanche may not be done with their signings as forward Sampo Ranta is another highly anticipated NCAA prospect ready to turn pro as well as rumors that defenseman Nate Clurman has left school to join the pro ranks. In addition to those college juniors many contract decisions need to be made on those from major junior such as Justin Barron, Alex Beaucage, Sasha Mutala and Trent Miner.

Busy time in the Rockies!