N.L.'s past NHL stars share their advice for Dawson Mercer and Alex Newhook

·3 min read
Dawson Mercer, left, and Alex Newhook are kick-starting the next generation of NHL stars from Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Dawson Mercer, left, and Alex Newhook are kick-starting the next generation of NHL stars from Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC/The Canadian Press - image credit)
CBC/The Canadian Press
CBC/The Canadian Press

Newfoundlanders Dawson Mercer and Alex Newhook are a big part of the future of the National Hockey League, exciting skaters who can put the puck in the net any chance they get.

But especially for young players, making your way in the NHL can be a challenge. Luckily, the province has had its fair share of people who can give a unique perspective.

The NHL has had more than 30 players from Newfoundland and Labrador hit the ice since the 1960s, beginning with Alex Faulkner in 1962. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have played more than 6,500 combined games in the league, scoring more than 900 goals.

Two Newfoundlanders have been able to put their name on hockey's greatest prize: Harbour Grace's Dan Cleary with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, and Bonavista's Michael Ryder with the Boston Bruins in 2011.

Cleary, who spent 17 seasons in the NHL, said today's rookies are much better prepared to play at the highest level than when he was drafted, in 1997.

"The young player nowadays, they're ready to come in and play. They're much more physically developed, they're mentally more developed. And they're just more confident," Cleary said.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/File
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/File

Cleary, who's now assistant director of player development for the Red Wings, said he even remembers getting to watch Mercer during his junior hockey career in Quebec.

"I go in to watch him, I'm like, 'Whoa! Is this kid good?!" he said.

"Right away I was like, 'This guy's really talented, he's really smart, he does a lot of good things. He's competitive.' Right away, I took a real liking to Dawson."

As someone who has retired now, you're definitely looking for those Newfoundlander names." - Colin Greening

Mercer and Newhook are some of the highest-selected Newfoundlanders in the history of the NHL draft. The highest ever pick came in 1995, when Terry Ryan of St. John's was drafted eighth overall by the Montreal Canadiens.

Although Ryan's NHL career was cut short by injury, his hockey career continues in St. John's — including getting on the ice with both rookies over the summer.

Gary Locke/CBC
Gary Locke/CBC

"Both guys … are absolutely great kids," he said. "They got their head on their shoulders, they're both dynamic players. Alex is one of the fastest players I've ever seen, I mean that, at least from Newfoundland."

Ryan added he believes Mercer and Newhook are just the beginning of what he calls a "golden age" of hockey talent from the province along with current Ottawa Senator Clark Bishop, Vegas Golden Knights first-round draft pick Zach Dean and 2022 draft prospect Ryan Greene of Paradise.

The sense of camaraderie is something Colin Greening remembers well about his time in the NHL, joining the league while Newfoundlanders Cleary, Ryder, Teddy Purcell and Ryane Clowe were established stars.

"I knew all those guys. I grew up playing with Teddy, played against Adam as well and Ryane. The summer before I turned pro I worked out with Teddy and Ryane.… To see that I was kind of able to join the ranks, that was really special," said Greening, who spent six seasons with the Ottawa Senators.

Leafs Nation
Leafs Nation

Greening advised the NHL's two newest Newfoundlanders to stay humble, hang on to their work ethic — and to never forget where they came from.

"There's like an underdog feeling that's associated with Newfoundlanders, and so I would say really embrace that," Greening said.

Ryan said the two should stay grounded.

"Don't get too high when the times are great, don't get too low when the times are low," he said. "The support's always going to be there. We love those guys."

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