The Timmins Rock have acquired 20-year-old defenceman Eric Paquette from the French River Rapids in exchange for a player development fee. It was one of two moves made by the Rock on Wednesday in advance of their game against the Rapids in French River Thursday night. The team has also reacquired forward A.J. Campbell from the Huntsville Otters, of the PJHL. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock swung a pair of trades on Wednesday in response to the NOJHL club’s escalating injury woes.
Already down five regulars, the Rock were dealt another blow on Tuesday when leading scorer Stewart Parnell went down with an upper-body injury while playing for Team NOJHL at the Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge in Trenton.
In addition, the team has learned defenceman James Redmond — one of the five players already out of the lineup — will require shoulder surgery and will be lost for the remainder of the season.
To help fill the void up front, the Rock have re-acquired forward A.J. Campbell from the Huntsville Otters, of the PJHL, in exchange for a player development fee.
And the Rock have added 20-year-old defenceman Eric Paquette from the French River Rapids, also in exchange for a player development fee.
Campbell (10, 0-0-0, 0), an 18-year-old Huntsville native, started the year with the Rock before being traded back to his hometown on Oct. 12.
With the Otters, a Junior ‘C’ squad, Campbell (11, 9-6-15, 12) got a chance to grow his offensive game, playing on a line with former Rock forward Cole Gilligan.
“A.J. is a guy, who early on, we saw had the potential to play a good 200-foot game,” said Rock coach Corey Beer Wednesday evening, while waiting to catch a flight from Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto back to Timmins after scouting for Hockey Canada during the Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge.
“We felt he wasn’t going to get the offensive opportunities he probably deserved due to the way our roster was constructed, so allowing him to go back to Junior ‘C’ allowed him to round out his offensive game.
“He certainly produced really well there with Huntsville. With our bodies going down and seeing the way he had progressed, we figured it was time to bring him back up into the fold.
“A.J., as a person, is a phenomenal kid. The handled the move (to Huntsville) like a pro and now he has the chance to come back up here and contribute. We are real excited to get him back.”
In addition to Parnell (22, 9-8-17, 10), the Rock are also without Derek Seguin (19, 5-12-17, 26) and Evan Kentish-Stack (16, 1-0-1, 10) up front.
“When it rains, it pours,” Beer said.
“Every team has to deal with injuries and we are certainly not going to use this as a crutch, or have it hinder our team or our year.
“It’s the old next-man-up motto. A.J. will be a guy who comes in and helps us out. Other guys will get better looks on power plays and in key situations.
“Losing Stewart hurts, for sure, but when he gets back hopefully we are going to be a better team.”
Paquette (23, 0-5-5, 10), a 6-1, 195-pound, left-hand shooting native of Chelmsford, brings 114 games of NOJHL experience with him to the Rock.
He broke into the league with the Sudbury Nickel Barons (now the Rayside-Balfour Canadians) during the 2014-15 campaign, but had spent the past three seasons with the Rapids.
“Eric is very excited to come to our team and contribute,” Beer said.
“You just can’t replace that veteran experience he is going to bring to our team with a young kid.
“Knowing how to play in key situations at crunch time is something we feel Eric is going to be able to help us with.
“He wants to be able to end his Junior ‘A’ career on the right foot and hopefully he can contribute some key minutes in all situations.”
Losing Redmond (20, 2-2-4, 4) certainly leaves a big hole to fill on the Rock blue-line, especially with fellow D-men Jared Hester (16, 3-7-10, 16) and Connor Losen (18, 3-5-8, 6) currently sidelined, as well.
“You don’t replace the kinds of things James was able to bring to the lineup,” Beer said.
“He is such an impactful player in all situations and he had really started to assert himself on the power play with his back-door shot on the one-two-one. He is tremendous at it.
“The other thing he does so well, is he is a very vocal leader. He is a real pro on the bench and he handles criticism as good as any player I have seen.
“We love what he brings to the team and it is going to be a huge loss this year, but it is more important for him to be healthy long term so he can help us out next year for a full season.”
While Redmond has been lost for the season, Hester (lower-body injury) is getting closer to being able to return to the lineup.
“Right now, he is day to day,” Beer said.
“We certainly don’t want to rush him back because he such an impactful guy for us in every situation.”
Losen, who is dealing with personal issues, likely won’t be back in the lineup for some time, according to the coach.
Paquette becomes the third former Rapids player acquired by the Rock this season, joining forwards Tyler Planetta and Jordan Picard.
Both Campbell and Paquette are expected to join the Rock in French River on Thursday and suit up for Thursday night’s game against the Rapids.