Coast to Coast to Coast: Alex Newhook’s Journey from Newfoundland to First Round Pick
When Alex Newhook has the puck on his stick, he’s got a lot of people rooting for him. There’s his family, his teammates, the Boston College fans. But those aren’t the only ones, because the 18-year old has over 500,000 No. 1 fans.
Small Town Kid
Newhook grew up 1500 miles northeast of Boston in St. John’s Newfoundland. It’s a quick 31-hour ride from Newhook’s new home in Chestnut Hill, including the 8-hour ferry trip across the Atlantic Ocean to get to the island.
Newfoundland is the easternmost province in Canada, and St. John’s is the easternmost point in Newfoundland. It’s the first place the sun rises in North America.
The island used to be home to the world’s busiest airport, as it was the closest spot between North America and Europe, so many planes used the area to refuel on their transatlantic flights. But those days have long passed.
It’s a place where everyone knows each other and is rooting for each other. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the rabid hockey culture that sweeps across the island. The community doesn’t produce the most NHL players, but it loves hockey. In fact, when Newhook’s name was called by the Colorado Avalanche, he became the 41st player from the province to be selected in the NHL Draft. But he was just the sixth first round pick from Newfoundland and the first since Daniel Cleary in 1997.
"I can’t say enough about the support from Newfoundland I get,” Newhook said. “Any time I go home, any time anything happens. It’s always nothing but excitement and support from them. And it’s something I’m very proud of for sure.”
Newhook took up skating when he was 4-years old. It took a few lessons for him to get going, but once he got the hang of things, he never looked back.
For 10 years, Newhook grew and developed as a youth hockey player. But, as the most exciting young hockey player in the island, a 14-year old Newhook had to make the difficult decision to leave the island.
“At that point, it was kind of time to move away from Newfoundland and get a bit more exposure, a bit more competition,” Newhook said.
In 2015, Newhook moved 2000 miles west to Aurora, ON, the first of many long journeys the teenager would have to make. Playing for David Manning, Newhook spent two years at St. Andrew’s College. He also played midget hockey in Ontario, racking up 25 more points than anyone on his team. Soon enough, however, it was time for another change.
Across The Country
About 275 miles from Aurora, and as far away from St. John’s as possible within Canada, Victoria was Newhook’s newest hockey destination. By this time, he was on NCAA and NHL teams’ radars.
His aunt Kelly lives in Vancouver, so Newhook’s father Shawn contacted her to see if she knew anyone within the Victoria Grizzlies organization. Soon enough, they were in contact with Craig Didmon, the team’s head coach. Shawn explained that Alex was looking to push himself by playing in the British Columbia Hockey League; after Didmon spoke to Shawn and Alex’s advisor, Alex joined the team.
The transition across the country wasn’t the only change Newhook had to endure. His family had to go through the court to give up some guardianship of him to Kelly so that he could play in Victoria.
Despite the chaos, Newhook took comfort in being able to stay with family, and he excelled during his two seasons with the Grizzlies. With 22 goals and 44 in assists in his first season with the Grizzlies, Newhook finished eighth in the BCHL in points and won the league’s Rookie of the Year award. But he only played 45 games, so he actually led the league in points per game.
During his second season, Newhook took his game to another level. His 102 points were 35 more than anyone in the BCHL. He also led the league in playoff scoring with 24 points in 15 postseason games. All of this led to the BCHL’s MVP award; Newhook was the first Grizzlies player to win it since 2001.
He also captained the Grizzlies for the 2018-19 season, a huge honor for the 17-year old. Newhook was actually chosen over a 20-year old, four year veteran of the Grizzlies. Didmon talked to the potential captain about the situation and the 20-year old agreed: Newhook deserved the captaincy. He was the Grizzlies general on the ice, directing players where to be, and the team’s unquestioned leader. Didmon said Newhook was the first player he ever coached who he never received a complaint about from his billet families.
“I try to be a lead-by-example guy whether that’s on the ice or off the ice,” Newhook said. “But I can still speak up when the time is there and the time is right.”
From Victoria, a Junior A team, the natural next step was one of the Major Junior leagues, typically the OHL or the QMJHL. Instead, Newhook took a different route, one that would send him back to the east coast.
B.C. to BC
And that all leads to Newhook’s newest home in Chestnut Hill. After considering the Major Junior leagues in Canada as well as top NCAA schools such as Harvard and Michigan, Newhook decided to leave British Columbia for Boston College.
“It was nice to be able to see both sides of it [Major Juniors and NCAA] before actually making the decision as to where I wanted to go,” Newhook said. “I got to come down and have a look at BC, have a look at a few different schools in the NCAA. It really just stuck out as a great option for me.”
Newhook headlines a loaded recruiting class for the Eagles, one Coach Jerry York called the best he’s had in his tenure at BC. Along with Matt Boldy and Spencer Knight, Newhook is one of three freshman first round picks on team, only the fifth time in college hockey history that a team has had as many players selected in the first round of the same draft.
Boldy and Knight, along with defensemen Drew Helleson and Marshall Warren, all came from that US team. They played together in America before all moving on to BC. Even though he played against Mike Hardman in the BCHL and faced the four US team members occasionally in tournaments, Newhook didn’t have that type of connection before coming to BC.
Fortunately, after having traveled from St. John’s to Aurora to Victoria, Newhook didn’t have a tough time assimilating into the BC locker room, despite being one of the lone new guys, so to speak.
“Any time you make that transition to play on another team it’s going to be a big transition no matter where you’re going,” Newhook said. “I was lucky to be able to come down last year and meet a few of the guys.”
He also has the potential to be joined by a familiar face in the near future. His sister Abby, currently a sophomore playing at Tabor Academy, is committed to play for BC. Leading up to the draft, Newhook was asked to name something not a lot of people know about him. He responded with “I have a sister who is better than me at hockey.” They played together growing up and were on the same pee wee team. In one game, the team won 7-6, with the Newhooks accounting for all seven goals.
Newhook brings elite vision and quickness to BC, a team that lacked secondary scoring last season. Playing alongside Boldy and assistant captain Graham McPhee on the second line, Newhook has generated consistent offensive pressure through the team’s first five games. Each member of the line only has one point, but once they start converting on those chances, the numbers are in for a quick uptick.
He also brings that leadership experience that was so evident in Victoria. For Newhook, being a leader in the locker room is as important, if not more important than excelling on the ice.
“It’s everything,” Newhook said. “You can be as good as you want on the ice, but these are the guys you spend every day with, the guys who you go to war with throughout the year.”
Over the past few seasons, the Eagles have suffered from slow starts. Things are a bit different this season, though. They opened the season with a win over a high-powered Wisconsin team. Despite getting swept at Denver, BC showed flashes of potential in all facets of the game against the top team in college hockey.
“The energy is there, the energy has been there since we got here, and we know the talent we have, the character we have in the room,” Newhook said.
For the second-straight season, BC enters as favorites in Hockey East. Last season didn’t quite go as planned, but with talented freshmen boosting a hungry veteran group, the vibe in the locker room has already undergone a positive transformation.
What Lies Ahead
While Newhook is focused on the present at BC, he does have an exciting future ahead with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs currently boast the best record in the Western Conference and possess one of the best young cores in the league. Their top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen already rivals the Bruins first line trio for the best in hockey, and no member of the line is older than 26. With solid drafts in recent years, Colorado also has up-and-coming stars Tyson Jost and Cale Makar on the roster. Bowen Byram, a defenseman selected 4th overall in 2019 by the Avs, is lighting it up in his third season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Byram, Newhook and Helleson, who was selected in the second round in 2019, form the next wave of prospects set to contribute in Colorado.
Avalanche fans got an early preview of what Newhook was capable of when the Eagles traveled to face the top-ranked Denver Pioneers for a mid-October non-conference series. Newhook recorded his first collegiate goal against the Pioneers, netting a short-hander by being in the right position in front of the goal. He displayed excellent speed through the neutral zone, and showed instant chemistry with Matt Boldy on the second line.
In true Newfoundland fashion, Newhook’s draft day was a big celebration. Newhook had 50 or 60 family members and friends in attendance, and the group had a suite rented out in Rogers Arena for a post-draft get together.
Newhook sat with his parents and sister during the draft. Soon after the Avalanche called his name and he had the customary hugs with family, the camera panned to a different section where some of his former teammates joyfully celebrated in Newhook’s old sweaters.
While the draft was still going on, Newhook sought out his buddies in the concourse, and the group shared a big embrace.
“It meant everything to me to have those guys there,” Newhook said. “To be able to share it with that amount of people and the support that they’ve shown me throughout my career and to have them there on such a special day was incredible.”
That moment is Alex Newhook in a nutshell. No matter where he plays, no matter how much publicity he gets, he’s still that same small town kid instilled with those St. John’s values. He’s a hockey player, but more than that, he’s a teammate and a leader. He’ll direct traffic on the ice and be the first one to pick a teammate up off it. He’s got Newfoundland behind him every step of the way, and he’s making the province proud.