The Victoria Grizzlies had themselves a historic showing at the 2019 NHL Draft.
This years edition of the National Hockey League draft was held in Vancouver from June 21st to 22nd, and featured eight BCHL players selected by NHL franchises. Of the eight players taken, three would be drafted from the Victoria Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies entered the weekend only having had one player ever selected in the annual NHL draft, which was Jamie Benn back in 2007. In this years draft however the Junior A squad based out of Victoria would see three of their players have their names called, headed by captain Alex Newhook, who would be picked sixteenth overall by the Colorado Avalanche.
An 18-year-old from Newfoundland, Newhook has played the last two seasons with the Grizzlies establishing himself as one of the league’s top all-around players. Newhook’s high-end offensive skills are driven by his hockey IQ. The St. Johns born forward has the innate ability to find space in between coverage, and possesses a shot that forces goaltenders to respect it. Newhook has the ability to beat goaltenders in a variety of different ways, which when coupled with his near elite vision, makes him a difficult threat to contain.
Newhook would score 66 points in 45 games during his debut BCHL campaign, after playing his bantam and midget hockey in York. He would then explode offensively in his second season with the Grizzlies, recording 102 points in 52 games. The Boston College committed forward’s 38 goals and league-best 64 assists would mark the first 100-point-plus season in the BCHL since the 2015/2016 season, which would be capped off by an eight point game in the regular season finale.
Newhook’s linemate for most of the season, Alexander Campbell, was the next member of the Grizzlies taken in the 2019 NHL Draft at 65th overall in the third round, by the Nashville Predators. This last season was Campbell’s first with the Grizzlies, after moving to the Island from Chateauguay, Quebec.
Over the course of the season, Campbell would go from a relatively unknown to as high as 42 on NHL central scouting’s draft rankings, registering 67 points in 53 games. The Quebec born forward’s speed is undoubtedly his strongest asset, as Campbell uses his great skating to beat defenders while making high-end plays at top speed.
North Vancouver native Carter Berger would be the final member of the Grizzlies selected during the 2019 NHL draft weekend, going in the fourth round, 106th overall to the Florida Panthers. The 19-year-old Connecticut-committed defenceman just completed his third season with the Grizzlies, and has taken massive strides since entering the league in 2016.
After putting up eleven points in 44 games in his BCHL rookie season, Berger would then register 34 points in his second season before exploding for 63 points this passed season. A solid puck mover with good vision, Berger led all BCHL defencemen in scoring during the 2018/2019 season and also had a league-best 27 goals from the blueline.
Though the Grizzlies season would come to an end with a four game sweep at the hands of the eventual Doyle Cup champion Prince George Spruce Kings, the Grizzlies organization continues to take massive strides, as head coach/GM Craig Didmon has done an excellent job spearheading the development of top-tier talent on the Island.
When Didmon joined the team as an assistant coach in 2012, the Grizzlies were coming off a season in which they finished dead last in the entire BCHL and missed the playoffs. Didmon would take over as head coach prior to the 2015/2016 season, and after missing the postseason in his first year as head coach the Grizzlies would then go on a run of three straight 30+ win seasons while making it to the conference finals in two of the last three years.