The Colorado Avalanche have done extremely well developing homegrown talent over the past few years. On the current roster, many notable players have been former draft picks of theirs.
Building through the draft is definitely crucial to the success of a franchise, and it is obviously a strategy for general manager Joe Sakic, as seen through previous selections. With the NCAA Top Collegiate Hockey Rookie in Alex Newhook, it seems as if he hit another ball out of the park.
Newhook was selected 16th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. After being raised in Newfoundland, he spent time playing hockey across Canada, including time in the CISAA, OJHL, and eventually the BCHL. The St. John’s native had his eyes set on the NCAA, where he is currently in his sophomore year. In 41 games played over two seasons at Boston College, he has posted 49 total points.
With all of this success, it begs the question: how long until Newhook is prepared to be an everyday NHL player? Similar to other prospects, it all depends on the franchise’s needs and wants at that certain time. However, the Avalanche might want him in their lineup sooner rather than later.
Newhook is an exceptional skater with blazing speed. His edgework is one of the best out of all forward prospects in the league. This allows him to become tight with opposing defenses when they have the puck, which creates a tenacious forecheck.
The former Victoria Grizzlies captain is also immensely skilled with the puck. He has the ability to take control of the play in a matter of moments when the puck is on his stick. With his quick yet deceptive release and great playmaking, it makes Newhook an offensive threat every time he is on the ice. He isn’t as flashy as prior Colorado prospects, but he is efficient.
Those two components of his game alone might make him already talented enough to compete at the highest level. However, the fact he has the potential to continue to develop those skills provides further incentive for Colorado to keep him out of the NHL for the time being. However, that time may end as soon as next season.
Where Would He Fit?
The Avalanche are in dire need of scoring from outside their top-six, and Newhook could possibly supply that. The highest-scoring player who has primarily played in the bottom-six is Valeri Nichushkin, with a measly three points. If head coach Jared Bednar believes the Boston College Eagle can make an impact in that department, expect to see him in the lineup faster than anticipated.
Newhook is also versatile in terms of his position. He could slot in on the wing or center if need be. Although he is a natural center, at the most recent World Juniors, he was, at times, used on the wing. While playing there, he did find some success, as his playstyle is easily transferable to the different position. This flexibility does make him more viable than other prospects in the Avalanche’s system.
If he’s on the roster during the 2021-22 season, he will play most of his minutes on the third-line, as he seems as a good fit there. However, past that, it may look different. Newhook has all the skill to play in the top-six, and he may find himself there in a few years. If his development continues in this upwards direction, he will become the perfect complementary piece to Colorado’s offense.
It’s more realistic to see Newhook dress in an Avalanche jersey in two seasons from now. However, the situation in Denver may call for immediate assistance from the young forward. The place he currently is in his developmental process does signal he can fill that hole, but it would be best if the Avalanche let him nurture in the AHL.
The World Junior silver medalist is in a tricky spot where he is good enough to play in the NHL now, but it would most likely stunt his development. It seems as if Colorado sees him as a future top-six forward, and him playing in the bottom-six may stop his progress to such a level.
Another roadblock for him to be playing in Ball Arena soon is his desire to play in the NCAA. Newhook made it clear from the beginning where he wanted to play before the NHL with the path he took.
Last season, before the pandemic, he made the Avalanche aware that he would stay another year at Boston College. This shows he wanted to stay in the NCAA, not because he lacked other options. If the 20-year-old decides he wants to continue playing collegiate hockey for another year, he will be one option Colorado can cross off the board.
Nonetheless, Newhook has potential to be a successful player in the mile-high city. At 20 years old, the writing is on the wall for him to be the player the organization wants him to be. It’s unsure when he will become that, but it is likely he will.