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Instant Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens are betting on Alex Newhook’s upside

On the surface, the Montreal Canadiens gave up quite a bit for a player who hasn’t quite made his mark at the NHL level after being a high pick.

In other words, it feels somewhat similar to the same trade they made at last year’s draft when they traded a fan favourite Alexander Romanov (which turned into the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft) and other draft picks in exchange for Kirby Dach.

The price of the 31st and 37th picks in this draft along with defenceman Gianni Fairbrother is not an insignificant amount, but the Canadiens – like they did with Dach – are hoping there is more than what has been revealed at the NHL level so far.

The charts above show that Newhook hasn’t really been a high-danger creator at the NHL level, and his underlying metrics don’t exactly show anything different than his stats line does.

Newhook spent most of his even-strength ice-time last year playing with Logan O’Connor and Andrew Cogliano, so that is another thing to keep in mind with his production numbers. That doesn’t mean playing with better players will immediately help, but it could be a factor.

Montreal Canadiens acquire Alex Newhook
The Canadiens trade the 31st and 37th overall picks and Gianni Fairbrother.

A look at some other underlying metrics, like the passing data from Corey Sznajder shows that Newhook is very similar to where Dach was a year ago. A player with flashes of good offensive strengths but who hasn’t put it all together.

The Canadiens are in a position to allow their young players to grow together. In the 22-year-old Newhook they have someone in similar age to Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki not to mention Dach and the myriad of young players they have coming up. They can put Newhook into a top-six role and let him grow into the role without much pressure in the immediate short term as the team is still in the rebuilding stage.

It is a gamble, to be sure, but so is making their picks at #31 and #37. There’s a reason Newhook was coveted, and was among a group with Caufield and Peyton Krebs that Canadiens fans were clamouring for as the 15th overall pick neared in 2019. They now have three players from the first 16 picks in that draft.

Former EOTP contributor and current Elite Prospects writer David St-Louis still thinks that Newhook has the potential that made him a first round pick. “I still like Newhook a lot,” he said in a tweet. “A lot of skills. Significantly above-average motor/skating combo. Showed a lot of anticipation in the NCAA. Didn’t show it so far in the NHL, but players thrive when they get opportunities.”

Newhook is also represented by Quartexx, and Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes was his agent before taking the job with the Canadiens so it is someone that the GM knows well, and is willing to bet on. This is in a way similar to when the team acquired Michael Matheson, who was also represented by Hughes and then acquired by him.

What does this mean for the Canadiens and the upcoming draft? Personally I would be quite surprised if they didn’t make a pick between #5 and #69 which is currently the case.

Having an additional NHL player under the age of 23 might open up more options for them in what they choose to do as they try and build a roster and foundation that will get this team back to contention.

Patrik Bexell, Jared, and Matt Drake also discuss the trade in an instant reaction podcast. You can listen to it whereever you listen to your podcasts or below.

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