by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat
On the surface, Wyatt Newpower’s path to the American Hockey League seems normal. But at a closer look there were many factors, including unwavering dedication, that got the Cleveland Monsters rookie defenseman to where he is now.
Growing up in Minnesota, hockey was the way of life whether it was shared and taught by his family, skating on the backyard rink, or playing in neighborhood games at the local ponds. No matter where it was, hockey was the focus and Newpower pushed himself to be the best he could be.
The 23-year-old always had a clear end goal of being in a Division I hockey program that came to fruition when he committed to playing at the University of Connecticut. A young athlete heading into college as a true freshman, Newpower appeared in 31 games his first season before his playing time was cut almost in half his sophomore year.
“After that second season, I had a meeting with [head coach Mike Cavanaugh] and told him that I wanted to be there,” said Newpower. “I told him that I wanted to play for them, be coached by them and I wanted them to help me.”
Continuing along his proactive path, Newpower moved full-time out to Connecticut heading into his junior year and began working closely with the coaching staff to improve his game. That summer ended up being what he felt was one of the biggest moments of his career, putting into motion a breakout junior year and the notion that there could be more in the future.
“[A hockey career] did not seem super real until it actually happened last spring,” said Newpower. “There were always talks with coaches and family about how ‘this could happen’ but I never really knew. Once I got to my junior year of college, I had been to summer development camps with NHL teams… I think that is when it started to sink in that I could pursue the sport after college.”
When his senior year was cut short in 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic, Newpower flew to Florida to spend time with his grandfather and finish school. After a few weeks, his pro dreams became real when an offer from the Rockford IceHogs was on the table.
“I was going to sign. I had spoken to family, my agent and my grandpa, who is a big influence on me,” said Newpower. “My last call was to my coach at UConn to let him know [that I was going to sign] and thank him for all the help. He told me that was great, but to wait because he had spoken to Columbus.”
The two parties had crossed paths when the Blue Jackets would go to see 2017 draft pick Kale Howarth playing at UConn and Newpower left a strong impression. After a few days and more conversations, Newpower signed his first AHL contract deciding the best fit for him was with Columbus.
Much like he had done before his junior year, Newpower went all in and moved to Cleveland in October to spend time in the city waiting for the season to start. The rookie connected with Monsters forward and veteran Nathan Gerbe to work out together and continue developing his game.
“I learned a lot from [Gerbe] just about skills, skating and puck handling even though we don’t play the same position,” said Newpower. “He has got such a great mind for all that stuff… He is always trying to get better somehow and is a workhorse. It was great for me to be on the ice with him and connecting with an older guy right away was huge.”
A second veteran that Newpower connected with and continues to learn from is defenseman Dillon Simpson. Paired together for most of the season, the rookie pulled lessons on and off the ice from Simpson.
“He’s made my life much easier with all the experience he has got, but he is also just a great guy to be around with a great attitude toward the game,” said Newpower. “He makes the game way easier playing with him. We have gotten to form some chemistry here and learned how to play with each other.”
Simpson and Newpower’s on-ice chemistry translated to the rookie’s first professional goal as well as three assists over nine games played with the Monsters. Currently coming back from an injury, Newpower is ready to earn his spot back in the lineup. Reflecting on how his summer played out and where he ended up, appreciation is a word that comes to mind for the path Newpower has found himself on.
“I couldn’t be happier. I love it here in Cleveland,” said Newpower. “The city has been great from what I’ve been able to experience. Being able to play in the FieldHouse and to fans is unbelievable. I am getting excited to be able to get back out on the ice.”