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Grizzlies alum Alex Newhook snubbed by Canada for World Juniors

Alex Newhook’s exclusion from Canada’s roster for the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship raised more than a few eyebrows from those who followed the 18-year-old’s two year career in the BC Hockey League.

Newhook is in his sophomore season at Boston College after leading the BCHL in scoring with the Victoria Grizzlies last season. The St. John’s, Newfoundland native had 102 points on 38 goals and 64 assists in 2018-19 to claim the league’s Brett Hull Trophy as well as the Vern Dye Memorial Trophy as BCHL most valuable player.  This season, he is fifth in NCAA Division I scoring among U19 players with 12 points in 15 games.

He also represented Canada on two occasions in the 12 months – at the Under-18 World Hockey Championships and with Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge. In 13 games wearing the maple leaf, Newhook put up 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) and the Colorado Avalanche drafted him 16th overall in the first round of June’s NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.

The World Junior tournament, which stands as a holiday season tradition for thousands of Canadian households, has traditionally featured a Team Canada roster laden with players from the CHL’s three major junior leagues – the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Last year’s team featured just two players from the NCAA ranks in defenceman Ian Mitchell and forward Shane Bowers. In 2018, Canada had three NCAA players on its roster, including former Penticton Vees blueliner Dante Fabbro and Colorado super rookie Cale Makar. In the last ten years, only eight players playing NCAA hockey have made the team, with Fabbro and forward Jaden Schwartz representing Canada twice at the World Juniors. The team didn’t have an NCAA player on it in 2010 or from 2013-15.

In Newhook’s case, his former coach in Victoria thinks the exclusion might be due to Team Canada’s lack of familiarity. “We know he’s a great player and we saw that for two years here in the BCHL. If you see him night in and night out you realize how special of a player he is,” said Grizzlies Head Coach and GM Craig Didmon. “He is still a bit of an unknown as he hasn’t plied his trade in the CHL so he hasn’t been in the spotlight of those evaluators every night. So it’s unfortunate (that he didn’t make the Canadian team), but he will move on from it and if I know Alex, I’m sure it will fuel his fire even more.”

The fact is that NCAA players do seem to have an uphill climb when it comes to making Canada’s team for the tournament. And it seems even more so for 18-year-old NCAA players. Only Makar, Fabbro, Schwartz and Tyson Jost have been successful in cracking the Canadian roster as freshmen in college. Mitchell, Bowers, Colton Point and Brandon Hickey were all into their second NCAA season as 19-year-olds when they donned the maple leaf at the World Juniors.

For Newhook, not being on Canada’s roster in the Czech Republic for the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship is but a hiccup in his career. It isn’t a reflection of his pro potential or what type of player he is. He has put together a solid rookie season at BC thus far and if his trajectory continues, Newhook should  wind up playing for Canada at the World Juniors in Edmonton next year.