Alex Newhook’s beautiful goal. pic.twitter.com/8uWB4eEhHo
– Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) March 17, 2022
As I mentioned when I introduced this top-15 list of the CH’s most important prospects, Alex Newhook, 22 years old and 159 regular NHL games, was going to be included in our countdown. The reason is quite simple: the Newfoundlander simply hasn’t really blossomed yet and, literally, at this stage, all hope is still on his side.
Alex Newhook, C/AG
Use value: 24/30
Exchange value: 7.5/10
Total: 81.5 / 100
Much like Kirby Dach last year, no one is quite sure what Alex Newhook’s true potential is. We think it may be a little lower than Dach’s, but we also know that the Habs’ recent acquisition possesses exceptional qualities that he didn’t show enough of in Colorado. Qualities like these, demonstrated during a cancelled and then forgotten edition of CMJ:
So the Avs are going to add this guy to MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar and co. 🇨🇦 #WorldJuniors
What a goal by Alex Newhook. pic.twitter.com/PuXqIYEvPN
– NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) December 27, 2020
Once again, we’ll have to rely on the assessment of the CH management, who surely see in him a brighter star than he was able to demonstrate with the Avalanche. After all, wasn’t Kent Hughes the agent of the principal interested party, and therefore a “believer” from the start?
Add to that the fact that, even if he’s not the most imposing player, he’s still “thick“, to quote his new GM!
Ehlers, also a speed merchant capable of scoring and distributing the puck, had a debut campaign of 38 points in 72 games at age 19-20 in Winnigeg. As for Newhook, he amassed 31 points in 71 games with the Avalanche at 20-21. We’re not exactly light-years away.
But unlike Ehlers, Newhook didn’t blossom in his second full campaign.
Whatever David Ettedgui’s sources at the Avalanche say, the question remains.
We’ve already seen Newhook’s “floor” in the NHL, that of a third-trio center capable of 30-odd points. Some of the world’s Lars Ellers have had quite successful careers with this. Ironically, it was this same Eller, who was on the decline, who came to take Newhook’s place at the end of the season with the Avalanche last year, without much success…
All that’s left now is to hope that the new #15’s “ceiling” will reach its full height, which can still be estimated at around 60 points per season. To do this, we suggest he becomes an important player on the power play, where the CH is still looking for a dominant player to carry the puck, as well as in the famous ” bumper ” role. RHP probably did best in this position last year…
Insurance to reach its potential
Perhaps because he simply wasn’t ready for such a role yet, or because the center order was too big for him, it didn’t work out as Nazem Kadri’s backup at second pivot last year with Colorado.
But that doesn’t mean that, with a little more experience, it won’t work in Montreal, in a new, more development-oriented context. Let’s bet that Martin St-Louis will be very tempted to repeat what he did with Dach and will want to help his new colt find his offensive ” game ” on the wing with good players, an opportunity he didn’t get much of last year when the Avalanche were decimated by numerous injuries in the top 9.
Here again, it’s MSL that gives us the most hope of getting the best out of a player like Newhook.
Based on past experience with Caufield and Dach, we’d be tempted to think that with St-Louis at the helm of this “new project”, there’s more chance of it working than there is of it going well.
But there’s also the famous “law of averages” to consider. Sooner or later, the strokes of genius of Hughes/Gorton and the magic wand of St-Louis may not always work…
That said, strangely enough, 22-year-old Newhook possesses a style and a number of skills similar to those of his new coach when he was a player… And we’ll remember that it didn’t really get going until St-Louis was… 27 in Tampa Bay! We’ll give Newhook and St-Louis a chance to show us the fruits of their collaboration.
But with Newhook’s regular-season and playoff record in Colorado, and the Avalanche’s reluctance to send him elsewhere, it’s doubtful whether Newhook will reach his full potential, and it’s an audacious gamble on the part of the Habs, especially in return for two high draft picks.
It’s a scenario that, curiously enough, we saw not so long ago in 2016 when Marc Bergevin got his hands on Andrew Shaw… Draft junkies will remember that Alex DeBrincat (39th) and Samuel Girard (47th) would have been available to the Habs.
Value in use
With three left wingers who’ve played their fair share of minutes on the top two trios of late in Drouin, Hoffman and Pitlick, another in Byron who’ll probably never play in the NHL again, and no sign of Dvorak or Monahan in the new management’s long-term plans, Alex Newhook has quickly become a very important short-, medium- and hopefully long-term prospect for the Tricolore.
Hardly anyone has talked about it, but even on the wing on one of the first two trios, and even if it’s not a great strength of his game (41.35% success rate last year), Newhook, a lefty, could take a fair amount of face-offs as a substitute for right-handers Dach and Suzuki or as a backup to another lefty, Sean Monahan.
Considering all his offensive cards and versatility, and his team’s needs, it’s easy to understand Hughes’ decision to give up two high draft picks to acquire him. In the big picture, with top offensive talent in short supply, Pierre-Luc Dubois heading for Los Angeles and the organization’s decision not to go for Matvei Michkov, the addition of young Newhook the day before the draft was almost a necessity.
Of course, we’ll never know if Pierre-Luc Dubois really came close to an agreement with the Canadiens. There may have been a lot of smoke coming from both sides in this matter, and Newhook magically landed in Montreal within minutes of the Jets-Kings trade being announced. Call it a “plan B” if you like, but the Newfoundlander joined the Suzuki, Caufield, Dach and Slafkovsky, a young offensive core aged 24 and under that really hasn’t reached full maturity yet. More generally, we’ve added another player worthy of the top-15 of his generation to the team, and we estimate that it usually takes a good dozen of this type to become a superpower.
They’ll all grow up together, and at an affordable price, for many seasons to come.
But they’ll need to be joined by at least two other impact forwards – Roy? Beck?1st pick of 2024? Autonomous player? – if we’re ever(from 2025-2026?) to make some “big noise” in the mighty Atlantic Division.
So, with all his departures and the changes still to come to the CH’s attack, Newhook arrives in a context where he’ll have plenty of room to develop over the next few seasons. But the presence of other young talents like Slafkovsky, Roy, RHP and Beck means that nothing can be taken for granted in his case.
Because he’s been acquired quite dearly, the newcomer will undoubtedly be given a lot of rope, but he shouldn’t hang himself with it, as happened in Colorado last year…
Very little mystery here! Newhook’s short-term value has just been established, as he was traded for two top picks before even hatching in the NHL.
Hughes has just agreed to terms with him for the next four years at less than $3 million per season, so there’s no reason for him to lose value – or even the opposite, one might think.
In the worst-case scenario, Newhook will do his own thing, stay close to his “floor” and carve out a niche as athird-row player… on a third-row salary.
But if Newhook breaks out offensively, it goes without saying that he’d be a bargain on the market at that price. But this offensive blossoming is exactly what the Tricolore wants from him! We didn’t acquire him with the idea of parting with him; the CH needs him!
But Hughes didn’t paint himself into a corner with Newhook’s contract. With such a good contract, should he prove to be rather timid in Montreal and/or other young players squeeze him out, the Habs GM should be able to sell him elsewhere without losing too much in the process.
Even if they don’t have the same style on the ice and their roles in the organization could diverge, in terms of potential, assurance of reaching it and value in use, the profiles of Roy(7th in our count) and Newhook are similar. We were only able to give Newhook a slightly higher trade value based on the 31st and 37th picks he cost the CH.
But for the rest, in both cases, we’re talking about forwards who will undoubtedly, sooner or later, have important auditions on the top-6, who will also have chances to make their mark on the power play and possibly on the short-handed.
Finally, in both cases, it’s the assurance of reaching this famous potential that is the subject of some caution, with a score of 15/20 that some might still find rather generous…
We’ll have to come back next week to find out!
In the meantime, you can still read and re-read all the articles in our annual countdown – it’s the weekend!
Introduction, promotions and honorable mentions
Positions 15 to 13 (Farrell, Mesar, Heineman) and a wild card (Lias Andersson)
Positions 12 to 10 (Fowler, Mailloux, Xhekaj)
Positions 9 and 8 (Engstrom and Barron)
7th position: Joshua Roy