NHL scouts continue to eye Victoria Grizzlies’ stars

The Victoria Grizzlies, leading all Canadian Junior A teams, placed four players on Central Scouting’s final ranking for the 2019 NHL draft released Monday.

Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook was ranked No. 13 among North American skaters and fellow-forward Alex Campbell No. 43, while Grizzlies blue-liners Jeremie Bucheler was rated No. 114 and Carter Berger No. 157 as the Grizzlies had four of the 24 Junior A players listed.

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Forward Tarun Fizer of the Victoria Royals (No. 199) and Esquimalt-product Jacson Alexander, a defenceman with the Edmonton Oil Kings (No. 217), were among the 50 Western Hockey League players ranked.

Leading the WHLers at No. 2 among North American skaters is defenceman Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants, whose two-way blue-line brilliance led the Giants to their four-game sweep of the Royals in the second round of the playoffs.

The top ranked North American skater is Jack Hughes of the U.S. and top European-prospect Kaapo Kakko of Finland, who were both based in Group B at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre during the 2019 IIHF world junior hockey championship.

Newhook, meanwhile, showcased on Sunday why he is projected for the first round by scoring a hat trick, including the overtime winner, as Canada beat Belarus 6-5 in a pre-tournament game in Vannas, Sweden, ahead of the IIHF world U-18 championship.

“[Newhook] works as hard as anybody in junior hockey and deserves to be in the first round,” said Grizzlies linemate Campbell.

Newhook is Boston College-bound to the NCAA after two starry seasons in Victoria in which he followed up his BCHL rookie-of-the-year award in 2017-18 with the BCHL scoring title and MVP award in 2018-19.

The second- to third-round projected Campbell, previously little known before his breakout in Victoria, is back in his hometown of Montreal following the Grizzlies’ four-game sweep loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL Coastal Conference final. The Spruce Kings are led by offensive blue-liner Layton Ahac, who is ranked No. 62.

“It’s definitely an honour to be so high on the final list. This is a huge accomplishment for me because I had no expectations when I came out to Victoria last fall,” said Campbell, who was named BCHL rookie of the year with 21 goals and 67 points in 53 regular season games.

“I’ve talked to quite a few NHL teams, both by phone and personal interviews, and it’s tough to tell [which teams were more interested in him than others].”

Campbell knows his five-foot-10 and 150-pound frame needs working on and said he will spend the summer putting on weight in the form of muscle — while staying grounded.

“You can’t let this go to your head,” he said, by phone from Montreal.

“It’s only a list and I’ll wait and see what happens in June.”

Campbell is committed to Clarkson of the NCAA, but likely for 2020-21, and is expected back with the Grizzlies next season. But he realizes the NHL team which drafts him will have the final say on where they want him playing next season.

Fizer, meanwhile, has made systematic and steady progress with the Royals, if a bit under the radar, and makes his first appearance on Central Scouting’s list when it matters most on the final ranking.

“It’s cool to be ranked with the top kids in the world in your age group,” said Fizer.

More important than Fizer’s modest 13 goals and 34 points in his sophomore season in Victoria was his stellar work on the penalty kill and the fact he plays a pro-type game.

“I’ve really improved my game offensively and defensively and I hope scouts have noticed that,” said Fizer.

Kelowna Rockets WHL forward Kyle Topping of Salt Spring Island, who was 195th in Central Scouting’s mid-season ranking, was left off the final list.

The 2019 NHL draft is June 21-22 at Rogers Arena.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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