Playing for Team Canada West, Alexander Campbell, left, pushes the puck through traffic, while teammate Alex Newhook tries to give him some space. (Hockey Canada image)

Four Grizzlies crack NHL’s central scouting list for 2019

Newhook, Campbell, Bucheler and Berger earn NHL notice

Call it the Alex Newhook effect.

Four Victoria Grizzlies were named to this week’s mid-season NHL Central Scouting Services rankings for 2019 draft-eligible players.

Newhook, the 17-year-old Victoria Grizzlies’ captain and leading BCHL scorer, tops all BCHL players ranked 16th among North American skaters.

Newhook, of course, was a highly regarded 16-year-old prospect who brought a lot of attention to Victoria when he arrived last year as a Boston College-bound player already pegged for serious consideration in the 2019 NHL Draft. At 16th in the North American rankings, when combined with the European skaters and goalie rankings, some analysts have him out of the first round. However, gauging by the amount of NHL interest at the Q Centre this year, there’s a good chance he goes in the 20s at the 2019 NHL Drafted hosted by the Vancouver Canucks on June 21-22.

READ ALSO: New and returning players make strong showing at Grizzlies’ training camp

With a player like Newhook on the Grizzlies, which have already clinched a playoff spot, it’s no coincidence that another three Grizzlies are on the CSS rankings. Fellow 17-year-old Alex Campbell is 26 spots behind at 42nd (bound for Clarkson University in 2020) followed by defencemen Jeremy Bucheler at 113th and Carter Berger and 181st.

“The NHL is definitely around the rink this year, and I don’t recall it being day-in and day-out where we’re talking to NHL teams,” said Grizzlies head coach and GM Craig Didmon.

All four Grizzlies have high ceilings, and all four are headed top programs in the NCAA, Bucheler to Northeastern and Berger to Connecticut.

“When we got Newhook we knew he was in the top of his class in the country as a 16 year old,” Didmon said. “We soon learned it didn’t matter what line we put him on, or where he was on the line, whichever line he was on was the line that was going… he makes people around him better.”

At the moment, Newhook leads the BCHL in scoring with 25 goals, 70 points, in 40 games.

Newhook’s combination of speed, vision and IQ soon brought comparisons to NHL players. And in that regard he should be credited with the way he’s dealt with the pressure of being the captain, leading the league in scoring, and knowing there are NHL onlookers in the stands (and online), all as a Grade 12 student finishing high school at Belmont secondary.

READ ALSO: Victoria Grizzlies players invited to World Junior A Challenge selection camp

“The way he handles himself in all these situations reeks like a first rounder,” Didmon said.

Fortunately for the other guys, they’re capitalizing by playing well in front of the NHL scouts, Didmon added.

Like Newhook, Campbell has a quick trigger response, gets to full speed fast, and gets his shots off quick while seeing the ice a little better than others in the league.

“With Campbell, we were hopeful he’d get a look at the [NHL Draft] coming in and we gave him opportunities to get into that watch,” Didmon said. “The fact he’s rated as a second rounder, that’s a compliment to Campbell and also for Newhook, on how he’s able to elevate players around him.”

Campbell is the only of the four likely to return for one more BCHL season before jumping to the NCAA in 2020.

The rise of North Vancouver’s Carter Berger and his 48 points this season is a key part of the Grizzlies success. The third year BCHLer was always offensively gifted and is now handling opponents top offensive assignments.

Bucheler, from Saint-Laurent, Que., came to the Grizzlies from the Chicago Steel in the USHL last year and blossomed into another high scoring defenceman with 38 points so far.

“Bucheler just needed confidence,” Didmon said. “As a 17-year-0ld in the USHL he didn’t get opportunity he needed. For us, we just let him play, when he made mistakes early on we just took it, there was a risk-reward, and its played out well.

“He’s gone from the bench in Chicago to the BCHL prospects game and is looking to go in the NHL draft.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

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