NHL Draft: Reece Newkirk

Reece Newkirk (Photo: Portland Winterhawks/Matthew Wolfe)

Name: Reece Newkirk

Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Position: Center

Height/Weight: 5’11 172lbs

Hand: Left

NHL Draft Ranking: N/A

Western Prospects Ranking: 22nd

Estimated Draft Position: Third Round to Fourth Round


 

Areas of Strength:

  • Driving the net
  • Forechecking/Puck retrieval
  • Plays with an edge

Areas of Weakness:

  • Strength on the puck
  • Staying out of the box
  • Top end speed

 

Report: Reece Newkirk is one of the top rising 2019 NHL Draft prospects playing in the WHL. At the start of the 2018-2019 season, Newkirk was not listed on the NHL Central Scouting Players to watch list. However, after registering 59 points in his sophomore season with the Portland Winterhawks, Reece is now ranked 81st amongst North American skaters. For a portion of the season he played on a line with Vegas Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass and San Jose Sharks prospect Joachim Blichfeld. While some of his early production was a result of playing with professionally signed players, Newkirk showed he belonged. He also continued to produce at a respectable pace when moved to a different line, including a time with two WHL rookies (Seth Jarvis & Jaydon Dureau). Throughout the year though, Newkirk was the player head coach Mike Johnston called upon to move up in the line up when the Winterhawks were in need of a goal.

One of the keys, perhaps the most underrated aspect, of Newkirk’s game is his desire/passion to retrieve the puck. Many players were rotated through the duo of Glass & Blichfeld, but by far the line was most productive when Newkirk was the third member. Reece was not afraid to go into corners, or along the half-wall to win the puck and send a pass their direction. Afterwards he drove to the net presenting a target for a one-timer, or Reece would force a defender to go with him which created time + space for his linemates. Newkirk is one of the premier forecheckers in the WHL I viewed this season. He is tenacious on the forecheck forcing bad passes or turnovers. His stick positioning when fronting a player helps the cause as well. Reece is one of the better players at the new approach of “place and race” instead of the old “dump and chase” philosophy. He places the puck in the offensive zone in a location where he can play the body to force a turnover or get a stick on a rushed first pass. Newkirk’s top-end speed is what wins him puck retrievals, he is fast enough to play at the next level. Newkirk’s speed noticeably increased over the year. Reece plays with a strong edge to his game, and this can be a skillset, but is also the biggest hindrance on his game. After almost every whistle he is seen mixing it up in front of the net or in the corners. The penalties assessed were not only of the two minute variety, but he also picked up a handful of ten-minute misconducts. He has an element to his game where he gets under the skin of his opponents. The other team always knew Newkirk was on the ice. As he progresses he will need to learn where the line is, and play right up to the line so he can stay on the ice.

Newkirk was relied upon to play in all situations as he saw time on the power play, penalty kill, extra attacker, defending the lead with under five minutes to play, etc. On the power play he most often played along the half-wall presenting an option for a one-timer or to bump a pass back to the man at the top of the zone. Overall, Newkirk is a prospect who can play in all situations and has all the tools to be a 3rd or 4th line NHL player down the road. (Joshua Critzer/June 2019)