Yesterday, the New York Islanders announced that they have signed prospect Reece Newkirk to a three-year entry-level contract. The fifth-round pick in 2019 has been playing his junior hockey out west for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
Newkirk has been with the Winterhawks since 2017-18. That’s the year Kieffer Bellows recorded 74 points (and 41 goals) in 56 games. Newkirk had eleven points in 58 games that year.
But since then, he’s steadily improved his game to a point where he’s produced over point-per-game for the last two seasons now.
New York Islanders sign Reece Newkirk to ELC
Actually, he’s been putting up points since 2018-19, it’s just that he wasn’t producing at a point-per-game or more in that 18-19 season. He only had 59 points in 68 games (0.867 Pts/G). Psssh, right?
On a serious note, Newkirk has made steady improvements to his game-year-over-year. This year is the only one where you can look at the score sheet and say he “regressed”. And even that’s a stretch because of the type of year it’s been.
He only played 30 games across all competitions (WHL and SJHL) this year and put up 39 points in those 30 games (12 points in 6 SJHL games). He spent a lot of time back at home in Moosejaw working out just waiting to get back on the ice.
So who is he exactly? Well, he’s a good prospect that reminds me a lot of Casey Cizikas.
The one constant takeaway from Newkirk’s game since his draft year has been his work rate. The kid has an engine that won’t quit and he uses that to outwork his opponents. He’s not the biggest guy at 5’11” (just like Cizikas) but that doesn’t stop him from mixing it up in the corners and doing the dirty work around the ice.
He’s a center who’s trusted not only to play big minutes at 5on5 and to play on the man advantage, but he’s one of the Winterhawks most important penalty killers as well. He’s also a pretty good power killer who can generate offense on the PK. Again, just like Cizikas.
Newkirk isn’t NHL ready right now. But with this contract, he’ll make the jump to the AHL where I expect he’ll fit into Brent Thompson‘s system nicely in a bottom-six role.
I know Cizikas is a pending UFA this year, but even if he leaves don’t expect the Isles to place Newkirk there right away. They’ve got other options they can use to be the next 4-C. But in three maybe even two years I can see Newkirk making a run for that 4-C spot and play the same type of game that Casey Cizikas plays.
The last time I spoke to Reece, he told me that the goal was to get signed by the Islanders. As he said: “That’s all I’m focused on right now.” With a three-year ELC in hand now I’m sure that goal has switched to making the Islanders roster.