Patrick Newell and Nick Jones Under the Pack’s Radar
In the AHL, it’s commonplace toward the end of any given season for clubs to bring in players on Amateur Tryout Agreements after they’ve finished their college or junior seasons, whether drafted or undrafted by the parent NHL teams. Near the end of the 2018-19 season, Patrick Newell and Nick Jones were among another crop of players to come out of college and make the jump to the AHL thus continuing the practice. This is a closer look at 2 players for the 2019-20 Hartford Wolf Pack that while not highly touted prospects, are becoming regular contributors to the Pack’s continued strong play through mid December.
Newell was a highly touted college free agent out of St. Cloud State having been a finalist for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award despite losing out to Cale Makar of UMass. He led the NCAA with a +35 and his Huskies team in 2018-19 in goals (21), assists (26) and points (47) in 39 games while leading the NCHC in goals and points. It’s clear that Patrick Newell had the ability to shoot and put pucks in the net despite being small at 5’ 10” and weighing 170 pounds and his skating and handling of the puck not being considered good. Unfortunately for Newell, NHL teams never gave him a thought during his time in college because of numbers many thought to be inflated during his senior season.
The Rangers took a chance at Newell, signing him on March 30th to a 2 year entry level contract. He made his pro debut the following night for the Wolf Pack in Hartford in a 5-2 loss to Springfield registering 1 shot and a -2 while picking up his first pro point on April 12th at home against the Hershey Bears. In 6 games, Newell notched only the one assist with 4 PIM and was a -3. With the 2019 offseason in full swing and the signings of players such as Phil di Giuseppe and Danny O’Regan, there were questions as to whether Patrick Newell would start the season in Hartford or with Maine in the ECHL even after getting into one preseason game for the Rangers during training camp. Despite the Wolf Pack starting the season with a roster that included Filip Chytil, Boo Nieves and Vitaly Kravtsov, Newell impressed enough during AHL camp that he beat out players like Ty Ronning, at one point considered to be one of the best Ranger prospects and found regular playing time over players like Ryan Gropp and Ville Meskanen.
Newell started the season strong with assists in 2 of the first 3 games of the season but then went pointless in 17 of the next 18 games despite the Pack’s very good start. He scored his first pro goal on November 2nd against the Belleville Senators in a game that saw the Pack claw back to force OT but ultimately lose 5-4 in a shootout. Despite the lack of scoring, Newell had been key on the Pack’s 2nd PP unit and even seeing time on the PK especially. December has seen Patrick Newell’s offensive numbers tick up with 3 points in the last 6 games which included a goal against Springfield and 2 days later scoring a goal and adding an assist against the Providence Bruins. Newell still has seen very little time past the 3rd line despite his recently improved play but has been visible even when he hasn’t found the score sheet. The Rangers made a low risk move by signing Patrick Newell but the trend is going up and with the Rangers likely to make moves before the trade deadline, his roll has potential to grow here in Hartford as the season reaches the playoff stretch.
While Patrick Newell’s college career is clearly defined, Nick Jones’ isn’t as such. The Edmonton native began his college career at Ohio State where in his freshman and sophomore year he totaled totalled only 7 points (1G, 5A) in 29 games while leaving for the BCHL 3 games into his sophomore season with the Buckeyes. After 2 seasons playing with the Penticton Vees which included a BCHL title, he returned to the US to play 2 more seasons of college hockey, this time for the University of North Dakota. During his 1st season with UND, Jones lead the team with 15 goals and his 30 points were 2nd most on the team in 34 games while last season being the 2nd leading goal scorer (9) and point getter (20) in 26 games.
Jones was signed to an AHL deal for 2019-20 on March 21st while making his pro debut on March 23rd against Charlotte. His first pro goal and assist were both earned in the same game, April 3rd at Springfield and finished the 2018-19 season with 2 goals and an assist in 10 games with 4 PIM. His play with the Pack at the end of last season was enough to earn Nick Jones an invite to Rangers camp at the beginning of the season and it didn’t take long for him to make an impression. In the First preseason game against New Jersey, Jones dropped mits with Kevin Rooney and just 3 days later, scored the only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers. Despite playing well and being on an AHL contract, Jones found himself here but just like Patrick Newell, ad a good AHL camp and found himself staying in Hartford to start the regular season.
Jones has managed to stay consistent despite seeing mostly 4th line duty at center and had a breakout week this past week with 3 of his 4 goals on the season scored in 2 of the Pack’s last 3 games. That includes a 2 goal effort this past Friday in a 4-0 shutout of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 27 games overall, Jones has 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points with 6 PIM despite being a -1. This season has also showcased Nick Jones’ defensive abilities by being a very key part in the Wolf Pack’s penalty kill and also on the power play as of late. In fact, Jones’ 2nd goal in Friday’s game was a PPG scored in the final minute of regulation.
Just as the case of Patrick Newell, Nick Jones was a low risk signing, even as an AHL signing, that is certainly paying dividends for a much improved Wolf Pack team that has made some noise in the AHL. As can be the case in many other sports, sometimes a team’s best players tend to fall under the radar. Nick Jones and Patrick Newell aren’t household names amongst Ranger fans that pay attention to the goings on here in Hartford but, especially as of late, can be just as important.