BRIAN DREWRY / TIMES COLONIST
AUGUST 1, 2017 10:33 PM
They are the future of the Victoria Grizzlies and if Alex Newhook and Jacson Alexander have anything to do with it, the future is now.
Hockey Canada seems to agree with the two 16-year-old incoming B.C. Hockey League rookies.
Newhook, a highly-touted centre from St. John’s, N.L. who is projected to be selected in the first three rounds of the 2019 NHL entry draft, and Alexander, a sought-after offensive defenceman from Victoria, just finished Hockey Canada’s U-17 national team summer training camp in Calgary. They both turned heads competing against the best 16-year-olds in the country, and they both hope to do the same for the Grizzlies, who open their 2017 training camp on Aug. 21 at Juan de Fuca Arena.
“The [U-17] camp was a lot fun and I learned a lot,” Newhook said over the phone from Boston where he had just arrived to watch his sister take part in a hockey tournament before heading home.
“I think I played pretty well, too, so hopefully I make one of those [U-17 national] teams in November.”
The Calgary camp, where they divided the players into teams and played a round-robin tournament, is used to select the Canadian teams for the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in November in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. Canada sends three teams to the tournament and they are joined by five international teams. The Canadian teams are expected to be announced in mid-October.
Newhook and Alexander were actually teammates on Team Black in Calgary, and while they didn’t fare so well in the win-loss column — losing all three games — both incoming Grizzlies played well.
“I thought I played pretty well until I hurt my ankle and had to miss the last game,” said Alexander, who had a goal in the two games he played for Team Black.
“But it was a great experience, meeting everyone and getting to play with Alex, so hopefully we can build off it and have a great start with the Grizzlies.”
While Newhook, who managed a pair of assists in Calgary, is from Newfoundland, he played midget hockey last season in Ontario for the York Simcoe Express Triple-A team. His 43 goals and 74 points in 33 regular season games and another eight points in seven playoff games caught the attention of a lot of scouts, both in Canada and in the NCAA in the U.S. He was selected by the Halifax Mooseheads in the third round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft. But after numerous offers from NCAA schools, has committed to join Boston College in 2019.
And, as he says, what better place to spend a couple of winters than Victoria.
“I’ve actually visited Victoria a few times because my aunt lives there,” he added. “And when I went out in May and met some of the players and all the coaches and saw the rink, it was pretty much a no-brainer. And everyone knows the B.C. Hockey League is one of the best junior A leagues in the country so I’m really excited.”
Alexander is, of course, no stranger to The Q Centre. After spending last season playing midget hockey for Shawnigan Lake Academy, he managed to get a few practices in with the Grizzlies when his season with Shawnigan Lake ended. He has committed to head to the NCAA in 2020 to play for the University of Denver Pioneers.
“I’m really looking forward to the fall,” said Alexander, who was a first-round selection — 17th overall — of the Swift Current Broncos in the 2016 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“I see the guys the Grizzlies have returning and the new guys coming in and I think we’ll be as strong as they were last year and hopefully have a long run like they did last season.”
And did he have any Island-savvy advice for his new teammate and soon to be classmate as both he and Newhook will enter Grade 11 at Belmont Secondary in September?
“I met him in May when he was here and of course we talked at [national team] camp and he’s a great guy so I just told him about the what the rink is like, and the weather and stuff.”