Much of the chatter surrounding the Vancouver Canucks’ 10th overall selection has centred around offensive wingers and upside on the blue line. While of course areas of need, the team should also not be afraid to take a look at impact centremen available, and one of the top names at the position is Victoria Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook.
Running away with the British Columbia Hockey League scoring title, Newhook put up an astoinishing 102 points in 53 games, outpacing second place by 18 points. Finishing third in goals (with 38) and first in playoff scoring with 24 points in 15 games, he possesses an offensive ability well above his peers. While some (somewhat fairly) question of the quality of competition at the BCHL level, his five goals and ten points in seven games at the World U18 tournament should put those concerns to rest to an extent. Stats wise, there isn’t a truly convincing argument against Newhook, and stands out in a wide field of promising talent.
How he fits in with the future of the Canucks’ offence may be the most pressing issue facing a possible selection. With the likes of Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, as well as Adam Gaudette and Tyler Madden in the system. While a valid point certainly, and one that works to the benefit of the numerous wingers likely to be available to the Canucks, there is also something to be said for depth up the middle. The ability to present all of Pettersson, Horvat, and Newhook up the middle would stand as a major advantage over their competitors, in the vein of Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins rosters that boasted Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal as a one-two-three punch.
Further, for a team lacking in speed, Newhook would present an interesting change to the dynamic. Even the club’s high end talent — Pettersson as well as Brock Boeser — is not particularly renowned for raw footspeed. Newhook, meanwhile, certainly is. An explosive skater with a knack for high impact plays at top speed, he brings a different skill set to the table than the more cycle- and shot-driven Boeser, or even the more deke-centric game of Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson. This would diversify the team’s offensive attack while adding depth to the overall scoring core.
There is also a case to be made that, through the lens of a Best Player Available draft philosophy, Newhook makes the most sense. The variation of talent in the early-to-mid section of the draft has been notable, and while the competition is steep — the likes of Matthew Boldy, Trevor Zygras, and Cole Caufield are common names thrown around by observers — Newhook may vary well possess the highest ceiling of the tier. The advantages of employing a ‘BPA’ strategy are such that it allows the organization to stockpile assets, and begin dealing from a position of strength in future negotiations. Drafting for position, while sometimes appropriate, has also landed General Manager Jim Benning in hot water at times (see: Juolevi, Olli). If the team believes the Newfoundland native is the best player on the board — and he just may be — they should not hesitate to take a swing at him.
The 2019 draft — hosted by the Canucks — stands to be an important, and compelling one. Should the team hold on to their tenth overall pick — and that’s still a question mark at this stage — there will be no shortage of options available to them. For a team still in need of gamebreaking talent, Alex Newhook is a compelling and viable option that should be considered.