Image: Portland Winterhawks/Keith Dwiggins

2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Reece Newkirk

There wasn’t much expected from Reece Newkirk this season after posting only 11 points in his draft-minus-one campaign with the Portland Winterhawks the year previous, but he took a big step forward this season, taking advantage of the ice-time afforded to him.

He is a bit a mixed bag in terms of the eye-test and other analytical tools, but there is enough to like about his game that he is worth a mid-round flyer.

We’ll dive into Reece Newkirk’s game.

Bio

  • Age/Birthdate: 18 / February 20,2001
  • Birthplace: Moose Jaw, SK, Canada
  • Frame: 5-foot-11 / 170 lbs
  • Position: Centre
  • Handedness: Left
  • Draft Year Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

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
68 23 36 59 23% 17% 1.71 0.85 2.59 13% 11.8 57.1% 3.8% 0.53 16% 8% 37.3

Scouting Report

Newkirk is a well balanced player that seems to compliment high-end offensive players extremely well. Add to that the fact that he is a competitor who doesn’t give up on a play and there is a lot to appreciate about what Newkirk brings to the table.

His skating is good, relying more on active feet rather than straight line speed and acceleration. Newkirk gets in on the forecheck really well and pressures his opponents into making decisions.

Newkirk’s shot improved as the season went along as it wasn’t a strength of his to start the season. But he is a very adept passer and uses that to set-up his teammates. He is very good at getting a pass through his opponents space and doesn’t rely on there being a wide open area to thread the pass through.

He is also a very smart player in terms of anticipation and getting into open spaces. Rarely will you see him staying in the same spot but instead moving around the zone to give his teammates another passing option. I’ve personally liked his ability to generate chances on the rush, it is something that will stand out after a few viewings.

Newkirk is good in the defensive zone with all those positive attributes mentioned above. He does lack the strength and balance to really lean in on opponents and thus can have issues defending against larger players. I’ve found him to be stronger defensively along the boards rather than centre.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound winger isn’t afraid to mix it up in terms of chirping, physically play, or just being a thorn in the side of his opponents.

The major concerns about his game are his need to add strength and what his overall upside will be. But he has a good work ethic, nice playmaking skills, and thinks the game really well; he could very well overcome those issues.

Analysis

Newkirk’s production of 59 points in 68 games wasn’t anything spectacular but does provide the following results from pGPS:

With 295 matches, Newkirk has a predicted likelihood of becoming an NHL regular of about 16%. That number puts him just within the top 100 of this draft class and was a more positive number than I originally expected. There are some interesting names in there but it’s important to remember that is just purely a statistical look and not an indication of style.

The above graph shows Newkirk’s estimated ice-time and rolling scoring rates and like the pGPS values, I was surprised at how positive the results were. Throughout the season, Newkirk hovered around 13-14 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time per game and produced extremely well with that opportunity. He also saw regular time on the penalty kill and powerplay for the Winterhawks.Looking at his team, it wasn’t exactly a team-leading rates but he is clearly in the second tier of Portland players following the likes of Cody Glass and Joachim Blichfield (the clear offensive catalysts for the team). Newkirk did see his role change when Glass was injured, but clearly didn’t fully replace him.

Looking at his SEAL adjusted scoring rate, Newkirk jumps up to 48th in this draft class:

There are some really positive signs to his game that lead you believe that he could become an NHL player. The problem that I struggle with in terms of Newkirk is exactly what type of player that is. He does have some offensive tools to his game that think he could be a successful middle six player who shifts between a 2nd line winger or 3rd line centre throughout the season with his ultimate landing spot being on that third line.

Newkirk improved as the season went along and took tangible steps forward in all the areas that he struggled with. The Winterhawks will be losing Glass and Blichfield next season, so Newkirk’s role should increase and it could go either way with him: he could fall off due to not having that elite junior talent to play with and insulate him; or he could really take advantage of the situation. I believe that he will become a leader for Portland next season and push over a point-per-game pace.

The red flags are too small to me to worry about him failing next season and thus he would be a player that I would take a flyer on in the mid-late rounds. Given that he is the 81st ranked North American skater, he could still be available in the 4th or 5th round and would be a good value bet at that point.

Additional Charts

Rolling Season Data

Team Relative

Cohort Based

       

Sources

Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and WHL.ca

Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Reece Newkirk’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.