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Former Grizzlies star Alex Newhook takes the long road to the world juniors

Former Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook was named BCHL MVP in 2019 and went on to play for Canada’s U-18 team.

It’s a Canada-spanning junior hockey storyline like few others, in terms of distance from one Mile 0 to the other Mile 0. Alex Newhook bounced across the country, from Atlantic rock to Pacific rock, and now into Alberta to represent the host nation in the IIHF world junior championship this month in Edmonton.

“From coast to coast, it’s been a great path and a great ride,” said the former Victoria Grizzlies captain and native of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“It was a decision I chose to make and I was lucky enough to land on some great teams in great spots from Victoria to now Boston College. I am very fortunate and happy with the path I have chosen.”

It isn’t the usual one for the Canadian national junior team. Newhook, linemate Dylan Holloway and goaltender Devon Levi are the three NCAA players on a roster dominated by players out of major-junior hockey, including Langford-produced goaltender Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers.

The five-foot-11 Newhook, because of size and style, was always sure the Junior A and NCAA route was the right one for him.

“There was a great opportunity in Victoria to pursue my development and we have family there,” he said.

“The Grizzlies allowed me to be a difference-maker right from the start.”

Newhook responded by being named B.C. Hockey League top rookie followed by league-leading scorer and MVP in his two-season tenure at The Q Centre. That didn’t go unnoticed as Newhook was the 16th overall selection in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

“I can’t say enough about the Grizzlies organization and Victoria,” said Newhook.

“They really welcomed me in and played a big role in the process of getting me here to the world junior tournament.”

There was a setback along the way as Newhook was cut from the gold-medallist Canadian junior team last year. He turned it into a learning experience and quest.

“I was disappointed not making the team last year. But I had a strong finish to last season [named NCAA top rookie] and that helped me get my game to another level,” he said.

Then came the pandemic. The isolation protocols have been even longer for Newhook. Because he crossed the border from Boston College, Newhook was in the midst of a regular 14-day travelers’ quarantine, along with Holloway and Levi, which was followed by the subsequent two-week Canadian team quarantine after two players tested positive during the selection camp held in Red Deer. The Canadian players went through yet another quarantine, this one for four days, which began when the team entered the Edmonton bubble on Sunday.

“It was crazy getting here with all the quarantine and isolation processes,” said Newhook.

It was worth the hassles. The year might be unusual, but not the dream. That remains the same.

“Only a select few get to this stage to represent their country,” said Newhook.

“And it’s special representing my home province [Newfoundland].”

Canadian head coach André Tourigny has cited Newhook for his “speed, balance and shot” and described him as a “two-way player who has lots of energy and good spark.”

The line of Newhook, Holloway and Jakob Pelletier was described as among the best in camp at Red Deer and is likely the second line for Canada behind the Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens, Connor McMichael unit for the world tournament.

Newhook, Holloway and Pelletier are first-round NHL draft picks, among 20 such players on the loaded Canadian team, including all 14 forwards.

“We click really well,” said Holloway, of playing with Newhook and Pelletier.

The Canadian roster includes three goalies, including Garand, eight defencemen, and 14 forwards, including Newhook. Canada plays exhibition games against Sweden on Monday and Russia on Wednesday. The world junior tournament begins Christmas Day with defending-champion Canada opening on Boxing Day against Germany.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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