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Islanders 2019 draft pick Reece Newkirk another diamond in the rough

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 17: General manager Lou Lamoriello watches the game between the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators as he reaches the 2,500-game milestone as GM. Only two general managers in NHL history has served as many regular-season contests, including Lamoriello’s counterpart (2,816 GP) David Poile of Nashville and Glen Sather (2,700 GP).at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on December 17, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 17: General manager Lou Lamoriello watches the game between the New York Islanders and the Nashville Predators as he reaches the 2,500-game milestone as GM. Only two general managers in NHL history has served as many regular-season contests, including Lamoriello’s counterpart (2,816 GP) David Poile of Nashville and Glen Sather (2,700 GP).at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on December 17, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders 2019 fifth-round pick, Reece Newkirk, has much improved his game and has been killing it for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Here’s an update on his third season with Portland.

In last year’s NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders took 18-year-old center Reece Newkirk in the fifth round (147th overall). Back in June, I wrote an analysis on this pick and gave it a grade of a B. With how Newkirk is playing now, the grade may be even better.

Newkirk, who turns 19 in a couple of weeks, has continued to grow as a hockey player and improve his game. The young center has continued to show that the New York Islanders quite possibly could have found a diamond in the rough within the 2019 draft.

Back in June when Newkirk was drafted, he was ranked within the top-135 of prospects by five major hockey analysts and inside the top-100 of prospects by four major analysts.

With how he’s improved since then, there’s no doubt in my mind that Newkirk would be drafted much earlier this upcoming draft.

Stats Update

Since his rookie season with Winterhawks in 2017-18, Newkirk has vastly improved from just scoring 11 points in 58 games. Prior to this season, Newkirk’s WHL career-high for goals was 23 in 68 games (last season). He’s already broke that at 24 goals in just 47 games this year.

Newkirk is also just three assists and two points away from his career-bests in those stats, currently being at 33 assists and 57 points. His point-per-game ratio went from 0.19 to 0.87, and is now at 1.21.

Not only has Newkirk continued to grow offensively as a player, he’s also remaining a solid defender. Last year, his +/- jumped to a +12 after being a -1 his rookie year. Right now he’s a +10, and if this trend continues, his +/- should be better than last year’s.

If the Islanders don’t find a long-term option for their third-line center position within the next couple of years, Newkirk could be the answer.

He’s exactly the type of player Trotz wants in his line up. Newkirk is a smart player with great vision that can also score.

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If the Islanders sign him (because they haven’t yet), and his game successfully translates to the AHL, we could see Newkirk up with the Isles in the NHL by the time he’s 22 or 23 – maybe even sooner.

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