You couldn’t blame Alex Newhook if his grade on his last high school exam Tuesday wasn’t up to his usual standards.
A whirlwind last couple of weeks hasn’t left a lot of time for studying for the Belmont Secondary senior. And oh yah, the Victoria Grizzlies captain is days away from seeing his childhood dream come true as Friday night in Vancouver one National Hockey League team will step onto the stage inside Rogers Arena and announce his name to thousands in attendance and thousands more watching on TV.
“It’s been a crazy few weeks for sure, but crazy good and I’m just trying to enjoy everything because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’ll be a special day,” said Newhook, the B.C. Hockey League’s leading scorer and MVP. NHL Central Scouting and TSN have ranked him 13th for this weekend’s draft.
The St. John’s N.L., product, who played the last two seasons with the Grizzlies, did manage to squeeze in a couple of days in Tofino last weekend, following a week in Buffalo where he was among the top 93 ranked players at the NHL Draft Combine.
“Had never been to Tofino so just made a quick trip for some R and R before things got going this week,” the 18-year-old said before hopping a ferry on Wednesday to head to Vancouver to meet up with mom, dad, sister Abby and several aunts and uncles.
“I think I got half of Newfoundland coming,” he laughed. “But it’s great for them to be able to come because they sacrificed a lot to put me through hockey growing up and I owe everything to them.”
The combine is where things really picked up as Newhook was interviewed by 27 NHL teams before going through two days of fitness testing.
“I held my own with the fitness tests and I think the interviews went pretty well,” added Newhook.
Interest in the high-scoring centre/winger heated up this week as well. On Wednesday Newhook was one of 43 players named the Canada’s world junior team summer development camp in Plymouth, Michigan. That was mainly because of an impressive showing at the world U-18 championship in Sweden last month where he led Team Canada in scoring with five goals and five assists in seven games, while playing along side fellow top-ranked forwards Dylan Cozens of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and Peyton Krebs of Winnipeg Ice.
“That was a fun tournament and getting to know guys like Cozens, who I roomed with, and Krebs was great and seeing them at the combine we were able to connect again, so I’m looking forward to seeing them at the draft as well.”
Newhook grew up a Calgary Flames fan — “my dad was an Oilers fan so I just went the opposite, I guess” — but says he has no preference as to which team calls out his name on Friday, although having the home team select him in front of a sellout crowd would be on another level.
And the Canucks, who have the 10th overall selection, did bring him in after the combine for a second interview. Philadelphia will choose 11th, followed by Minnesota at 12, Florida at 13, Arizona at 14 and Montreal has the 15th pick. But it was Vancouver’s chief amateur scout, Thomas Gradin, who was spotted inside The Q Centre on several occasions this season.
“I would just be happy to be drafted by any NHL team but of course living on the West Coast for the last couple of years, which you can’t beat, it would be exciting to be with the Canucks and have an opportunity to stay here.”
Newhook is headed to Boston College of the NCAA this fall and is one of several Grizzlies who are likely to be drafted this weekend prior to starting their NCAA careers. Alex Campbell, who had 67 points in 53 games for the Grizzlies, is rated 43rd by NHL Central Scouting and is committed to Clarkson University, although, is leaning toward playing in the USHL for a season before jumping to the NCAA. Defenceman Jeremie Bucheler is ranked 114th and headed to Northeastern University, while fellow blue-liner Carter Berger, who hails from North Vancouver, is ranked 157th and will attend UConn in the fall.
Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon will also be in Vancouver this weekend to attend the draft and said it is a huge weekend for the players as well as the Grizzlies organization as it’s the first time a player from the Grizzlies will have been selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
“It’s historical for our franchise. Wherever I go in the hockey world now, they know our team, they know our organization,” said Didmon, who will also attend a coaching seminar today put on by the NHL.
“I’m happy for our fans, our volunteers and our sponsors. All their hard work has paid huge dividends for our team. And of course, I’m so happy and proud of all our players who get drafted this weekend.”
While most of the Grizzlies getting drafted this weekend won’t be returning to Victoria, there is one player who will likely have his name called early Saturday in the second round, who will be coming to the Grizzlies for the 2019-20 season and can’t wait to get to the West Coast.
“I’ll be in Vancouver [today] with my family and looking forward to a busy weekend and then we plan to come visit Victoria for a few days to check things out,” said new Grizzlies defenceman Jayden Struble, who is ranked 48th by NHL Central Scouting.
Struble is a six-foot, 195-pound blue-liner who just finished his final week of school at St. Sebastian’s School near Boston and will suit up for the Grizzlies this season before moving on to the NCAA and Northeastern.
He too, attended the combine where he just happened to hook up with a couple of guys who know Victoria well.
“I got to have dinner with Alex [Newhook] and Alex [Campbell] and they raved about Victoria and the BCHL so I’m really looking forward to developing my game there,” added Struble.
Struble is from Cumberland, Rhode Island, and having spent several years going to school near Boston there was really only one team for him to cheer for.
“Everyone in Boston is B’s fan so I followed them a lot. But it’s been a dream of mine to be drafted by an NHL team so it doesn’t matter to me which one.
“It’s only one step toward achieving my dream of playing in the NHL but it’s a huge step so I’m really excited about the weekend. And then the real work begins.”