VANCOUVER — The population of Grizzlies in the city of Denver just doubled.
The Colorado Avalanche selected Victoria Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook with the 16th overall selection in the NHL draft on Friday night at Rogers Arena. And with former Grizzlies defenceman Tyson Barrie already patrolling the Avalanche blue line, Colorado went to the Victoria well once again.
And Newhook, the B.C. Hockey League’s leading scorer and MVP this past season, couldn’t be happier about heading to the Mile High city.
“This is amazing,” said the 18-year-old Newhook, who had mom Paula, dad Shawn and sister Abby sitting next to him along with about 40 family and friends from Newfound in the surrounding stands.
“I knew Colorado was really interested when they called me for a second interview [after the NHL combine], and right away I felt comfortable with them. And obviously, it’s a great organization that has won a Stanley Cup — and they have another Maritimer in Nathan MacKinnon — so I’m super excited about joining the Avalanche family.”
And about possibly suiting up beside another former Grizzlie?
“Yah, I hear he’s a pretty good player,” Newhook said with a laugh.
“But seriously, Tyson had another great season and it would be awesome to play with him.”
Newhook, who hails from St. John’s, N.L., was ranked 13th by NHL Central Scouting going into the draft, and when the host Vancouver Canucks went on the clock at No. 10, things got a little more noisy in Rogers Arena.
Eleven of Newhook’s Grizzlies teammates, including Carter Berger, Marty Westhaver, Nico Somerville and Ryan Nolan, were sitting in the next section over and started chanting: “We want Newhook, We want Newhook!”
But it wasn’t to be as the hometown Canucks selected Russian star Vasily Podkolzin.
The chanting continued until Avalanche GM Joe Sakic stepped up to the mic.
“It was great to see the boys from Victoria out,” Newhook said. “The whole Grizzlies organization has been so supportive over my two years in Victoria and it’s a time that I’ll never forget.”
Neither will the Grizzlies organization.
“It was surreal to hear Sakic call his name,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, also in attendance.
“And he will join Tyson. It’s a very young, skilled team the Avalanche have, so Alex will fit in very well there when he’s ready.
“And this is a great moment for the organization. It’s a reward for all the volunteers and everyone involved with the club. We couldn’t be happier for Alex. He’s earned the opportunity in front of him.”
Newhook will attend the Avalanche prospects camp in the next few weeks and then continue to prepare for his NCAA career, which will begin in September when he heads to Boston College.
“It’s been a long journey, an amazing journey and a worthwhile one,” said Newhook, who graduates from Belmont Secondary in Langford next week and then expects to study business administration at Boston College.
“The draft is one step along the path, and now I’m looking forward to getting to [Boston College] and developing my game more so I’m ready for the NHL when I decide to make the jump to the next level.”
A few of his former teammates hope to take that step, too. Starting today for some of them.
Rounds two through seven go today at Rogers Arena. Outgoing Grizzlies Alex Campbell (ranked 43rd), Jeremie Bucheler (114th) and Carter Berger (157th) could hear their names called, as could new Grizzlies defenceman Jayden Struble, who comes to Victoria ranked 48th by Central Scouting.
“Having these guys all ranked just goes to show what a special group we had this year,” Newhook said. “You look at all the Junior A programs across Canada and it’s not every often you see four guys get drafted by NHL teams.
“I hope they get their names called and continue their journey, because they’re all great guys and great teammates.”