July 2, 2019
NHL Draft Re-cap – BCHL Players
After Alex Newhook was selected 16th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1, seven more players from the league were chosen in rounds two to seven, on day 2 of the NHL Entry Level Draft in Vancouver, June 29.
The eight were the most BCHL players selected since the NHL went from nine to seven rounds in the draft in 2005.
Here’s a recap of this year’s BCHL picks:
Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies) – Round 1 (16th overall), Colorado Avalanche
Victoria Grizzlies forward Alex Newhook was selected 16th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.
The 18-year-old came into the draft ranked as the 13th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He led the BCHL in scoring this season with 102 points and took home the league’s MVP award.
Although it took until Colorado’s second pick of the draft for them to select him, Newhook wasn’t entirely surprised it was the Avs who snapped him up.
“Throughout the year, I always had a connection with [the Avalanche],” he said. “I felt like it could be a fit and I’m really happy to be a part of the Avalanche family.”
Following his Rookie of the Year campaign with the Grizzlies in 2017-18, it was thought that he might leave the BCHL last offseason to join the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), who held his CHL rights. Obviously, Newhook chose to remain in Victoria for his draft year and that choice ultimately paid off.
“It was a tough decision with Halifax having the Memorial Cup and them being such a great organization,” he said. “But, I was committed to play with the Grizzlies and do as much as I could to help our team win there. Going back and being the captain and being part of that group there was something that meant a lot and was important to me. It was a great two years and I’m very happy with my decision.”
Including himself, Newhook was a part of a Grizzlies team this year that have four players that could be drafted when all is said and done. His linemate Alexander Campbell and defencemen Jeremie Bucheler and Carter Berger are all hoping to hear their names called tomorrow morning when rounds two to seven take place.
Newhook sees this as an indication of the quality of the Grizzlies program and, by extension, the entire BCHL.
“I think it says a lot [about our program in Victoria],” said Newhook. “You look at Junior A programs across Canada, it’s not very often that you get four guys that could possibly be drafted to the NHL.
“I’m really hoping for the best for those guys tomorrow and I think they all deserve to get drafted.”
Newhook started his playing career in his hometown of St. John’s, N.F., then moved to Ontario at the age of 14 and eventually ended up in Victoria to play in the BCHL. On this monumental day, he was able to reflect on his long and winding path to the NHL.
“It’s been an amazing journey to be able to live in three places already at the age of 18. It’s been awesome for me as a person and as a player.”
Newhook had plenty of support in the arena with him tonight, not only from friends and family that made the trip from Newfoundland, but also from a lot of his Grizzlies teammates.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Newhook. “You have the guys here from Victoria that you shared all those memories with throughout the year. For them to want to be here so badly and support me, it means a lot.”
Alexander Campbell (Victoria Grizzlies) – Round 3 (65th overall), Nashville Predators
Campbell was the second BCHL player to be taken after his teammate Alex Newhook went in the first round. The Chateauguay, Que. native will join an organization that already features BCHL alum Dante Fabbro, a Burnaby product who joined the Preds for an impressive playoff run this spring out of Boston University.
Campbell, the BCHL Rookie of the Year, is eager to join a team that already has so many good pieces in place.
“They’ve got a hell of an organization,” he said. “A great group of forwards, defencemen and great goaltending, obviously. They’ve got a lot of good prospects coming up as well.”
Reflecting on his time with the Grizzlies, he recognizes the quality of the program they are running and how it helped raise his draft stock.
“Going into the year, I wasn’t on anyone’s lists, so I didn’t really have any expectations,” he said. “I had an amazing year [in Victoria]. I definitely don’t regret going there at all.”
Campbell is committed to Clarkson University for the coming season.
Layton Ahac (Prince George Spruce Kings) – Round 3 (86th overall), Vegas Golden Knights
Ahac was another player who saw his draft stock rise after a successful season in the BCHL. The two-year veteran of the league played his best hockey during the 2018-19 playoffs where he had 17 points in 17 games and led the Spruce Kings to a league title.
Being a local kid from North Vancouver, he was happy to have plenty of friends and family in the building cheering him on.
“My whole family is out,” he said in an interview during the draft. “I’ve also got tons of friends and past coaches who live locally. Their support has just been tremendous.”
After he heard his name called, he explained his decision to go the BCHL route and how his relationship with Prince George head coach Adam Maglio exceled his development.
“I went with my gut feeling. I went to Prince George and I fell in love with it there. I thought, ‘I want to play here and I want to play for this guy.’
“[Maglio] is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and I got to have him for two full years. He saw something in me that maybe others didn’t see. He always pushed me to be my best and I’m super grateful for him.”
Ahac will play for The Ohio State University in the 2019-20 season, where he will join Philadelphia Flyers’ 2016 draft pick Tanner Laczynski, Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2017 selection Ryan O’Connell and fellow 2019 draft hopeful Michael Gildon.
Ahac joins second-rounder Kaedan Korczak in what is becoming a robust pipeline of blue liners for the Golden Knights.
Carter Berger (Victoria Grizzlies) – Round 4 (106th overall), Florida Panthers
Another North Vancouver product, Berger got to experience being drafted in his hometown, which was extra satisfying after he was passed over in last year’s draft.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s always in the back of your mind, all season long, playing with a bit of a chip on your shoulder.”
With the college route to the pros generally allowing for more time to develop, Berger thought all along that this was the best option for himself and his game.
“I’m a late bloomer,” he said. “The college route offers you so much time to develop. You obviously want to make that step to pro hockey as soon as possible, but at the same time you don’t want to rush it. The college path is perfect for that.”
Berger credits his own self-belief as well as playing with talented players as the main reasons why he was able to excel offensively this season.
“It’s just confidence,” he said. “It also helps when you have such a skilled team. I’m the third guy from our team getting drafted this year. That’s pretty rare, especially for a BCHL team.”
Despite going undrafted last year, Berger was invited to Anaheim Ducks rookie camp last June. Heading into this year’s camp with Florida, he will hope to draw on his experience with Anaheim.
“Last year, going in, I was a little bit nervous and jittery,” he said. “This will be my second time around, so I know what to expect and I’ll be a lot more comfortable.”
Berger will head to the University of Connecticut in 2019-20.
Harrison Blaisdell (Chilliwack Chiefs) – Round 5 (134th overall), Winnipeg Jets
After two years in Chilliwack and with a national championship under his belt from 2018, Blaisdell explained why choosing the BCHL was the perfect fit for him on his path to the NCAA.
“It was a good jump for me coming out of midget,” he said. “It’s an older league and there’s a lot of skilled players and it moves fast…Just getting prepared for North Dakota next year and playing that faster hockey was really good for me.”
His father Mike played nine seasons in the NHL and went through the draft himself back in 1980 when he was selected 10th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, so Harrison was able to lean on his dad’s experience during this stressful time.
“He’s been super supportive,” said Harrison. “He’s super calm and has taught me how to deal with this kind of stuff. It’s been really helpful to have him around.”
Blaisdell, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan, will play for the University of North Dakota next season.
Logan Neaton (Prince George Spruce Kings) – Round 5 (144th overall), Winnipeg Jets
The Jets took back-to-back BCHL players with their two fifth-round picks, taking Neaton at 144 overall after taking Blaisdell earlier in the round.
The 20 year old Brighton, Mich. native wasn’t on any draft rankings heading into the draft, but the selection is well deserved as Neaton finished the regular season with the seventh-best goals-against average in BCHL history at 1.92. He was even better in the playoffs where he went 16-1 with a 1.46 goals-against and a .940 save percentage, leading the SpruceKings to a Fred Page Cup title.
“It’s such an honour to be drafted by the Winnipeg Jets,” he said via Twitter. “Thank you to my friends, family, teammates and coaches for all the support along the way. I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Neaton is committed to UMass-Lowell.
Kevin Wall (Chilliwack Chiefs) – Round 6 (181st overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Another player who wasn’t on many people’s radar heading into the season, Wall, from Fairport, N.Y., immediately impressed teammates, fans and scouts with his goal-scoring ability this season.
He led all BCHL rookies with 31 goals and was named a First-Team All-Star and a member of the All-Rookie Team.
In November, he earned a scholarship to Penn State University where he will play the 2019-20 season.
Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees) – Round 7 (216th overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Rizzo was the second BCHL player chosen by Carolina after they selected Wall the previous round.
After missing the first two months of the season, the Burnaby, B.C. native had eight assists in his first seven games back in the Penticton lineup. Shortly after that, he found his goal-scoring touch and ended the season at over a point a game with 40 in 37 contests.
Shortly after the draft the Penticton Vees announced that Rizzo had been traded to the Coquitlam Express, in a move that completed a swap with Express for Alex DiPaolo.
The move was made primarily to help in Rizzo’s rehab, by playing close to his family home in Burnaby.
Rizzo is committed to the University of North Dakota for 2019-20.
Other BCHL related draft notes:
There were also several players selected who are committed to BCHL teams in 2019-20, including:
- Jayden Struble (Victoria Grizzlies) – Round 2 (46th overall), Montreal Canadiens
- Cade Webber (Penticton Vees) – Round 4 (99th overall), Carolina Hurricanes
- Cooper Moore (Chilliwack Chiefs) – Round 5 (128th overall), Detroit Red Wings
- Nikita Nesterenko (Chilliwack Chiefs) – Round 6 (172nd overall), Minnesota Wild
- Keiran Ruscheinski (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – Round 7 (206th overall), Montreal Canadiens
Two former BCHL players were also taken in the draft:
- Max Crozier (former Nanaimo Clipper) – Round 4 (120th overall), Tampa Bay Lightning
- Henrik Rybinski (former Coquitlam Express) – Round 5 (136th overall), Florida Panthers
- The highest number of BCHL players chosen in a single NHL Draft was in 2004 when 12 were taken.
- Three Victoria Grizzlies players were selected in the 2019 draft, marking the first time that’s happened since 2004 when the Salmon Arm Silverbacks had four players chosen.
- Three of the eight BCHL players selected are from B.C. and six of eight are from Canada