National U-18 team snub ‘tough to take’ for Newhook, Alexander

Defenceman Jacson Alexander from Victoria and forward Alex Newhook of the Victoria Grizzlies haven’t faced many speed bumps in their hockey careers, but were jolted by one Wednesday. Both were left off the Canadian U-18 team for the upcoming Hlinka-Gretzky Cup to be held in Edmonton and Red Deer.

Both vowed the snubs will act as incentive.

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“I was definitely hoping to make the team going into camp. It’s tough for me to take, but Hockey Canada had tough decisions to make,” said Newhook, the 2017-18 B.C. Hockey League rookie of the year.

“It’s going to be a strong Canadian team.”

Newhook had a goal and three assists in three intra-squad games in the 44-player try-out camp held in Calgary, but it wasn’t enough.

“I’m going to use this as motivation coming into the season. This is going to push me even harder,” vowed Newhook, who is projected to go in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft.

Alexander, a puck-moving blue-liner, is headed into his sophomore season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League.

“I believe I had a good camp and performed well, as did Alex [Newhook],” said the Esquimalt-raised former Grizzlies and Shawnigan Lake School player.

“I guess it just wasn’t our year. But there was not a bad player in camp. This is just motivation to do better heading into the season.”

Hockey Canada said paring down the camp was hard.

“We had an incredibly busy, but successful selection camp, with 44 players who worked hard and made our decisions very difficult,” said Brad McEwen, Hockey Canada head scout for men’s teams, in a statement.

Twenty-two players were named to the Canadian roster in what scouts are touting as a strong class of U-18s.

“The players who will wear the Maple Leaf at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup are highly skilled and fast,” said Alan Millar, Hockey Canada’s U-18 Program of Excellence lead.

“This will be some very entertaining hockey for fans in the building and those tuning in. We’re looking forward to a great tournament on home ice.”

Defending-champion Canada opens Aug. 6 against Switzerland.

Because the IIHF U-18 world championship takes place in the spring, when Canadian junior hockey playoffs are underway, the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup is considered the only best-on-best U-18 world tournament.

Last year’s Canadian team, when the tournament was held in Breclav, Czech Republic, produced 18 players who were selected in the 2018 NHL draft. Among all national sides in the 2017 tournament, 77 players were taken in the 2018 NHL draft, including 19 in the first round and seven of the top 10 picks.

LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies, who open training camp Aug. 20, have traded forward Tanner Hopps to the Penticton Vees for a player development fee. The 18-year-old Hopps, who hails from North Delta, had three goals and three assists in 45 games for Victoria last season.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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