It has been a while since I put fingers to keyboard to do one of these things - but before I get started, I'd like to wish everyone North of the 49th parallel a Happy Canada Day. Free healthcare, maple syrup, miles upon miles of wilderness and a population obsessed with hockey... an overall solid country. Canada Day also marks the opening of NHL Free Agency, which should be awful interesting. Stud players like Mitch Marner and (AP's boy) Brayden Point are Restricted free agents, while game-changers such as Artemi Panarin and Anders Lee will be highly-coveted commodities on the UFA market. As a Bolts fan, I'd love to see Point in Lightning blue for years to come, and see Kucherov and his $9.5 Million dollar contract wearing someone else's colours in 2019-20. However, I don't think the #86 transaction will happen!
Friday, June 21st was a really cool day for myself, and anyone who has been a regular with Xtreme Hockey since its inception. Since I don't have cable (who needs to spend $100 a month on cable in 2019), I ventured over to my brothers bachelor pad to watch the Colorado Avalanche select #xhockeyalums Alex Newhook in the first round (16th overall) in the NHL Draft. Newhook was a program regular at Xtreme since he was knee high to a jackrabbit; having the opportunity to see Alex walk to the podium, stand next to 'Burnaby Joe Sakic' and shake hands with Gary Bettman was almost surreal. The Avs are getting a player that tore up the BCHL the past two years.... unless you've been living in a cave without WiFi the past couple years, you probably know that Newhook has won more awards than the Rolling Stones have Platinum Albums. Ifso-facto, Newhook marries into a Colorado organization that is clearly headed in the right direction. Up front, the likes of Mackinnon, Rantanen (RFA but Colorado have $38M in cap space, per CapFriendly), and Landeskog are studs who are all all under the age of 27. On the back end, Cale Makar looks like an anchor to couple with 4th overall pick Bowen Byrum for years to come. With a number one goalie and some depth across the board, the Avalanche should be a force to be reckoned with in the foreseeable future.
** Side note: after every selection in the draft, my brother and I would hammer out 10 push ups so after a brief, emotional moment for the Newhook pick, we got down and banged out ten.
Leading up to the draft, I'm sure that a lot of people checked out the Sportsnet feature on Alex (if you haven't, click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8x9XbKPXsQ&list=PL0iCK-cC0PKE-f63DkiWfQXIohNGqACQl&index=27 ). The feature discusses Alex's path to the draft, which has spanned the entire country of Canada. Naturally, I have received a lot of e-mails and texts since this video about players leaving 'The Rock' at a young age to chase the hockey dream so I figured I would address it in this article.
Do I think that it is wise to leave Newfoundland at a young age to pursue hockey? IT DEPENDS.
Right before Newhook moved to Ontario to play for St. Andrew's College, his family had a going away party for him and I was happy to be invited. I spoke to Alex's mother (Paula) that night - she was nervous about him going away at 14 (I probably would be too if I had a child). My response to her was 'you're making a good decision'. Talking to a 14 year old Alex Newhook was like talking to a 25 year old man. Newhook was mature beyond his years, was 150% focused on hockey, was held in high regard by YSE/St. Andrews, and was a player that would not have been challenged playing local Bantam hockey whatsoever. I will always go on the record of saying that Alex Newhook has made the best possible decisions to further his hockey career to date (playing Junior 'A' over the Q, sticking to his BC commitment, going to St. Andrew's/YSE).
That being said - this model is not for everyone, and there are no two situations that are exactly the same. For example, '03 defenceman Conor Shortall was trying to decide on going away this time last year (age 15), and my advice to his family was to stay home for at least one more year. My reasoning was a local Midget AAA team had selected him with their first pick from the Bantam draft, which all but guaranteed him a boat load of ice time. Shortall developed under Brad Yetman's coaching, which saw him become the MAAA Rookie of the Year in 2018-19, and a mid-round selection in the 2019 QMJHL Midget Draft this past month (congrats Conor, wink emoji).
Speaking of the QMJHL Draft, it should be noted that 3 other #xhockeyalums not named Shortall heard their name called on draft day. Congrats to Zach Dean (4th overall, Gatineau), Ryan Greene (59th overall, Charlottetown), and Will Dyke (150th overall, Shawinigan) on being selected! While the headlines earlier in the year belonged to Greene and his commitment to Boston University (NCAA Div I), the month of June was owned by Mr. Dean. Not only did Dean become one of the highest-ever Newfies to be drafted in the QMJHL, he was also selected to attend Hockey Canada's prestigious U-17 National Selection Camp. For more details, check 'er out right here https://www.hockeycanada.ca/en-ca/news/2019-wu17hc-112-invited-to-u17-camp
Last but certainly not least, shout out to #xhockeyplayers '09 Quinn Norman on being picked up by the Boston Junior Bruins for the annual Brick Tournament at the West Edmonton Mall. This tournament showcases some of the best youth hockey players on planet earth, and I say this with complete certainty that Quinn Norman will be every bit as good as what's there. Norman is a slick skater who shows phenomenal athleticism in his movements; good luck in Alberta young man!
Want to be featured in my next blog article? Shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and pass along your story. It's not supposed to crack 70 Fahrenheit for the next 2 weeks here in Newfieland, so I'll have plenty of indoor time to do some writing....(hangs head).
Until Next Time,