Who is Reece Newkirk?
Reece Newkirk is a forward from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan currently playing with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Newkirk is on the smaller side at 5’-11” and 170 lbs, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a prospect very much on the rise this year. Playing center primarily for the Winterhawks, Newkirk has jumped from a player receiving little attention at the start of the year to someone now with a good shot of going in the top-100.
A look at this career stats from Elite Prospects will give a quick picture of how his stock has soared this year versus where he was coming out of the 2017-18 season. His rookie season in the WHL didn’t result in much impact on the score sheet, explaining why he may not have been turning heads. He has turned that around this season, though, jumping from 11 points to 59 in just one season. Something clicked for Newkirk over the past 12 months and he’s been an effective player for the Winterhawks in 2018-19 and could be worth a look in the top three rounds of the draft. A snapshot of his career stats from Elite Prospects is below.
Newkirk is regarded as a high-effort player and someone very much not afraid to mix it up with opponents, but he has some definite skill to go along with that as he has shown this season. His passing is well-regarded and his highlights show quick hands and an ability to pick some corners with his shot as well. Digging into his numbers just a bit more at Prospect-Stats.com he shows up in the top-10 among U-18s in the WHL in 5v5 and all-situations points per game. His output at even-strength is actually fairly comparable to likely top-15 pick Peyton Krebs (though Krebs was admittedly on a terrible Kootenay team). Newkirk is far from a sure thing, but there are definitely some things to like from the likely third- or fourth-round pick.
Where is Newkirk Ranked?
As mentioned above, Newkirk wasn’t really on many radars heading into 2018-19, but that changed quickly as he blazed out of the gate. He wasn’t even on Central Scouting’s “players to watch” list to start the season, nor was he in The Draft Analyst’s preseason Top 400, just to give some context on where he was at. Now at the season’s end, he has a lot more people looking his way and seems to have a solid chance of going in the top 100 of the NHL Draft.
- NHL Central Scouting: #81 (NA Skaters)
- Elite Prospects: #59
- The Hockey Writers: #90
- The Athletic (Wheeler): #70
- The Draft Analyst: #131
What Others are Saying About Reece Newkirk
Newkirk is a player on the smaller side, but that doesn’t mean he is shy about getting into the dirty areas of the ice to make an impact. His highlights show a guy who knows how to find space in front of the net and his coaches talk about what the like about his game in this profile at DubNetwork.
[Portland assistant coach Don] Hay has seen his fair share of talent over the years, the WHL’s all-time winningest coach. He describes Newkirk as “a type of player teams are looking for. A competitive guy, fiery guy, he has a lot of life in his game. He competes at both ends of the ice which is what makes him an interesting player.”
Newkirk is relied upon in all situations: 5-on-5, second power play unit, and the penalty kill. When the team is down by a goal, Johnston will often elevate Newkirk back to the top line.
Newkirk can produce but he isn’t a one-dimensional forward, as his coaches rely on him in all phases of the game. Despite a disappointing first round exit, he was a big part of a strong Portland team playing with and then behind top Vegas prospect Cody Glass, and then helping pick up the slack when Glass went down with an injury in January.
The one part of his game that is consistently noted as a plus is his passing. That is mentioned along with is above-noted competitive streak in this brief profile from Bill Placzek at Draft Site.
Undersided (sic) forward capable of playing with the big boys. Smart passer with improving puck handling skill, he battles for all contested ice and crashes his way to the blue paint. He is not afraid of anyone.
His passing is again noted in a January game review from HockeyProspect.com (mostly behind a pay-wall, but this snippet is publicly available):
Very smart passer who understands how to get pucks around and through defenders.
Finally, prospect site DraftGeek.ca has several game reports that cover Newkirk. Some nice insight comes from two separate game reports in December by Joshua Critzer. First, from the Winterhawks December 1st game vs Spokane, Critzer talks about how Newkirk’s impressive play is leading to a fast-rising stock:
Newkirk continues to show his success this season isn’t just from playing with Glass and Blichfeld. Reece finished the evening with a three point night contributing a goal and two assists. His speed and quickness is improving as the season progresses, and he displayed it on Saturday driving wide around a defender. Newkirk’s head is always up and twice against Spokane led to an assist. His passing ability will help him in the jump to AHL hockey after he graduates from the WHL. His saucer pass on Dureau’s goal went through three defenders and landed flat on Jaydon’s stick. The more and more I watch Newkirk the higher I expect him to be drafted this summer.
Another report comes from the following night vs Kootenay and talks about his shot specifically:
One area Newkirk continues to develop is his shot. On Sunday evening he led a 3-on-2 rush up the ice using his speed to breakaway from the backchecking Kootenay players. With his head up the entire way, Newkirk realized the passing lanes were shut down and decided to shoot instead. Reece held the puck for a split second longer for Jesse Makaj to slide just far enough to his left. Newkirk then unleashed a wrist shot from the hash marks which went off the post and in. If he continues to pick spots like he did on Sunday, his shot will easily translate to the pro level.
Good vision is a skill that is tough to teach, so a player that shows an ability to read and anticipate plays well has a great foundation to potentially make an impact at higher levels. That he is a threat to both pass and shoot makes him potentially dangerous and the fact that he is unafraid to mix it up with opponents just adds to that.
A Little Video
Newkirk had himself a strong season for Portland and as a result, the WHL put out a nice highlights package for him. These are mostly goals, so there are only glimpses of his passing abilities, but he has some nice shots in here (and a fun batted-in goal at the beginning). He’s clearly capable on the rush and he can finish plays well. Highlights don’t tell a comprehensive story, but he clearly has some skill.
An Opinion of Sorts
Reece Newkirk is a player who has greatly increased his stock over the past eight months to the point that he could go in the top 100. While a consistent track record of high-level play is best, a prospect climbing draft boards in his pre-draft season is usually a good sign and perhaps better than a player who was well-regarded and later stagnated. Newkirk has a lot to like about his game, but the things that stand out are that he has good vision and the kinf of work ethic that coaches are big fans of. If the Devils looked his way at pick #80 or #96, I think he could end up being a real solid pick. He may not be a top-flight prospect, but there is enough here to think he could be a worthwhile project with a pretty decent ceiling.
What are your thoughts on Reece Newkirk? Do you think he is worth spending one of the Devils’ top-100 picks on? Are there things you like/dislike about how he projects from what you’ve read? Chime in with your comments below and thanks for reading.