2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Alex Newhook

Alex Newhook’s slow start to the 2018-19 season seemed to throw cold water on the top-five consideration he was getting in the preseason, but a strong finish with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies and a stellar performance at the 2019 Ivan Hlinka tournament have improved his stock and re-established him as one of the most intriguing players in this year’s class.

Newhook was head and shoulders above his competition, putting up an absolutely cartoonish 102 points in 53 games. While his decision to play in the BCHL and retain his NCAA eligibility will earn him some doubters, he has all the tools to be an effective two-way forward at the pro level.

Bio

    • Age/Birthdate: 18 / January 28, 2001
    • Birthplace: Saint John’s, Newfoundland, CAN
    • Frame: 5-foot-11 / 190 lbs
    • Position: Centre
    • Handedness: Left
    • Draft Year Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
    • Accolades:
      • 2017-18
        • BCHL All-Rookie Team
          BCHL First Team All-Star
          BCHL Most Assists by Rookie (44)
          BCHL Most Points by Rookie (66)
          BCHL Rookie of the Year (Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy)
      • 2018-19 
        • BCHL First Team All-Star
          BCHL Most Assists (64)
          BCHL Most Valuable Player (Vern Dye Memorial Trophy)
          BCHL Top Scorer (Brett Hull Trophy) (102)
          U18 WJC Top 3 Player on Team

2018-19 Stat Rundown

GP G A P INV% 5v5 Pr INV% 5v5 ePr60 SEAL Sh/GP Sh% 5v5 eTOI GF% GF%rel GD60 rel XLS% Top XLS% XPR
53 38 64 102 48% 38% 1.00 56% 0% 25.5

Scouting Report

There are two things that truly set Newhook apart from his BCHL peers. the first is his skating ability, which is on full display in this beautiful end-to-end rush from his rookie season:

Newhook’s acceleration and top speed are both among the best in this year’s class, and he can turn on a dime to separate himself from a defender. He also uses his stocky frame and low centre of gravity to his advantage to protect the puck under pressure. This combination of speed, vision, and puck protection effectively made him the Puck Possession King of the Pacific Northwest.

The second attribute that made Newhook such a lethal offensive force in comparison to his peers is his elite playmaking ability. No Junior A player saw the ice better than Newhook this season, and his ability to find players in traffic and effortless cross-ice passes were enough to make average players look transcendent. What gives him the potential to be special player at higher levels is that he can still make these plays at top speed with defenders baring down on him.

He could use to add some power to his shot, and there were occasions where I caught him trying to skate up the middle through three or four guys when he had no chance of maintaining possession, but overall, he’s a remarkably complete player in a league that trends towards the raw and unpolished.

Because Newhook has spent the last two seasons in Junior A, I would estimate that he may be a longer-term project than some of the other players in this class. The step from the BCHL to NCAA is a steep one, and Newhook will likely need some time in the AHL to hone his skills as well before he’s ready for NHL action. Nevertheless, the payoff will likely be worth it for any team picking in the 8-15 range.

The transition from a historically weak league to a strong one tends to go one of two ways for prospects of Newhook’s calibre. They either find that they can’t exploit defenders to nearly the same degree, and see their offensive output dip as a result, or excel with teammates that can think the game and execute plays at the level they can.

While Newhook is likely to find that NCAA defenders aren’t nearly as eager to give up the middle of the ice as their BCHL counterparts, I would bet that he lands in the latter camp. In his rookie year, he would occasionally get sloppy in his own end or when carrying the puck through the neutral zone, but that behaviour has mostly corrected itself. Despite being far and away the most talented player in the BCHL last season, he rarely took a shift off and his tendency to force plays up the middle of the ice gradually dissipated over the course of the year. Something I really appreciated about Newhook this season was the way he continued to improve his game in a league that offered precious few real challenges.

Analysis

Unfortunately, the BCHL doesn’t track games with nearly the level of care as the Canadian Major Junior leagues, and as a result, the data we have to work with on Newhook is limited at best. Without any on-ice goal data, we’re basically stuck with traditional boxcar stats and whatever we an gleam from SEAL and pGPS.

For a player with such an impressive resume and complete toolkit, the picture pGPS paints of Newhook is decidedly underwhelming. His cohort consists of three players, two of whom did not make it to the NHL. The third player is Beau Bennett, who had an equally impressive BCHL career but was derailed by injuries. Newhook had better totals than the two non-NHLers in his cohort, and is an earlier birthday than Bennett was, but it’s still relatively unimpressive company to be in. Because Newhook’s season was much closer to Bennett’s than the other two players in his cohort, pGPS gives him a pretty high expected likelihood of success with 56.4%.

If Newhook were still getting the top-five pick buzz that surrounded him at the beginning of the year, this might give me pause, but since he’s slipped down into 10-15 range in most rankings, I feel confident in saying that the team who selects him is likely to be very happy with the player they’re getting, especially when there are so many reasons to believe that pGPS is underselling him.

There’s a legitimate case to be made that Newhook didn’t have the same quality of teammates as some other BCHL superstars. Beau Bennett, Kyle Turris, and Tyson Jost all had another teammate crack the 100-point barrier, and Jost wasn’t even the highest-scoring player on his team. In contrast, Newhook had a 35-point lead over Alex Campbell, the Grizzlies’ next highest-scoring player.

Whenever there’s buzz around a Junior A player, there’s going to be a lot of hand-wringing over that player’s quality of competition, but it’s important to remember that quality of teammates is at least as important, if not more. The fact that Newhook put up 104 points playing primarily with a guy who didn’t quite make it to 70 is enough to make you wonder what he can do with better linemates. It’s a small sample, but his 10 points in 7 games at the U18s offer a window into what Newhook is capable of when he’s playing alongside teammates who can match his talent level.

While the BCHL doesn’t track anything nearly as fancy as team shooting percentage, there were definitely times that Newhook appeared to be the victim of bad luck on the man advantage, consistently making plays that his teammates were unable to convert on.

The Grizzlies boasted the league’s third-best PP%, but were second-last in the BCHL in penalties drawn, so you could make the case that Newhook’s offensive totals could have been much higher if the Grizzlies had been luckier in the special teams department.

Either way, it’s not as though Newhook was hard-pressed to find offensive opportunities. An impressive 65 of his 104 points came at even-strength, and made up nearly two-thirds of his offensive output, which bodes extremely well for his chances of those offensive skills translating into the NCAA and beyond.

The one minor concern I have when projecting the player Newhook can be in four or five years is that at 190 pounds, he’s likely a bit closer to his physical peak than many of his peers. He’ll get stronger, no doubt, but he’s not going to bulk up significantly.

Overall, I would say that Newhook has a good-to-great chance of being a useful forward at the NHL level, likely as a second or third-line centre who can provide a bit of offensive punch, but may not have the kind of upside his lofty point totals against weaker competition in the BCHL would suggest.

Additional Charts

Sources

Raw data used for charts in this article was taken from eliteprospects.com and bchl.ca.

One Reply to “2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Alex Newhook”

  1. Nice work here Jackson. I never got on the hype train with this kid through the year, and it will be interesting to see how he develops in D+1/2 seasons.

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