Feet slamming the ice, Alex Newhook comes running down the wing. He looks up. The neutral zone is guarded by three defenders. So he accelerates wide, slides the puck in between an opposing stick and the wall, and sprints into the offensive zone, now free of his coverage and in position to create a scoring chance. Alexander Campbell, a fellow draft-eligible forward, rushes through mid-ice a few feet back as support. Newhook opens his hips, feet at 10-and-2, slowing down just enough to scan for his teammate. Campbell receives a lobbed pass onto his stick and finds himself alone with the goalie.
Occasionally change the supporting offensive player, repeat this scenario 10 to 15 times a game, and you have a portrait of the style of play of Newhook, and what makes him so successful.
Birthplace: St. John’s, NL, Canada
Weight: 190 lbs.
Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
There are few players in the 2019 Draft who are more mobile than Newhook. He has speed — a lot of speed. And he is very quick in his movements. His skating made him incredibly dominant in the BCHL this season, as his game was based on breaking free to rush up the ice, overwhelming the opposing defence with his fast-paced play.
Alex Newhook wore #18 with the Victoria Grizzlies
This season, after receiving the puck mid-flight somewhere on the breakout route, Newhook could be the lowest man in the defensive zone and barrel through everyone to cross the opposing blue line first. There is just not much the opposing line of defence could do to prevent his access to their zone when his powerful and rapid crossovers closed the defensive gap. That enabled him to thread the puck through sticks and skates, or bounce it off the wall to escape.
Even knocking him down on his course was an incredibly difficult task. Newhook is not only fast, he is also very agile and incredibly solid on his skates.
The second sequence in the video above highlights his balance. Newhook, coming in wide, loses some of his speed going around a first defender, tries to dangle through a second, but fails. The puck slides down the wall. To win the race to the corner and retrieve it, he pushes with one foot, squeaks by the opponent by going 10-and-2 (this position makes him a lot harder to knock over than a simple crossover) and he comes out the other side first on the puck, immediately initiating a hard cutback to further separate from his coverage and look for options. Having attracted the attention of the entire defence, he finds two of his teammates alone in front of the net.
Newhook is a great puck-protector while rushing up the ice, which contrasts with many other smaller forwards who have speed but can’t resist contact as well. His deft hands are a great help in those instances, and the forward’s work ethic shouldn’t be understated. He invites defensive pressure and has learned to beat it.
Once in the offensive zone, Newhook continues to shine. He can easily circle it while facing the play in the aforementioned 10-and-2 position.
In this next sequence at the World Under-18 Championship, watch how many times Newhook opens up to glide on his inside edge. He is both protecting the puck and turning his body toward the play to look for a passing option. It’s a great skill to have. It improves his vision and ultimately leads to him finding Dylan Cozens alone in the slot.
The last tool in Newhook’s already full package is his shot. It is hard, quick, and precise, which makes it a weapon on the power play from the half-wall. He is a constant threat from that position. The forward’s quickness also contributes to having the puck fly off his stick.
Ideally choosing a moment when the goalie is screened, Newhook likes to gain momentum with a few crossovers before firing.
Newhook finished the season with 102 points in 53 games; almost a two-points-per-game pace. He had 18 more points than his closest pursuer on the leaderboard, Ryan Brushett, who is close to two years his senior. The BCHL may not be as strong a league as the WHL, but having such a statistical advantage still captures the imagination.
But Newhook’s game, as good as it was this year, is not without flaws.
His skill set had him at quite an advantage over the opposition. He didn’t need to get especially creative with his patterns off the rush and could often simply outrace a line of defence that had trouble adjusting. He will need to attack the middle a lot more often at the next level if he wants to gain the zone, even considering his superior skating.
Adding more deception to his game, which he didn’t necessarily need to produce this year, would also go a long way in helping him retain his offensive power in the collegiate ranks. Generally, he will need to continue maximizing his skating attributes, and push them even further to create space for himself in-zone.
Not all productive Junior A players turn into NHL stars. Tyson Jost produced at about the same rate as Newhook for the Penticton Vees and has not established himself as a top forward in the NHL yet. But Newhook, considering his many skills, is still worth a very high draft pick.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #9
Future Considerations: #19
Hockey Prospect: #16
ISS Hockey: #14
McKeen’s Hockey: #16
NHL Central Scouting: #13 (NA skaters)
That said, it might be best to not rush him as he works on diversifying and developing his game in the NCAA with Boston College. Given time, the centreman’s work ethic could have him become an NHL forward capable of pushing the pace and even make an impact defensively as he hunts the puck and moves it back the other way as fast as possible.