By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – A pair of trades by the Timmins Rock this week have resulted in a homecoming of sorts for a pair of NOJHL players.
The Rock have acquired 1999-birth-year blue-liner Lucas Dolanjski — a Timmins native — from the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in exchange for a player-development fee.
The team has also reacquired 1998-birth-year forward Tyler Planetta — a Goulds, Nfld., native — from the French River Rapids in exchange for a player-development fee.
As a rookie with the Gold Miners, Dolanjski (50, 5-7-12, 24) enjoyed a solid 2016-17 campaign, often earning praise from then Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur.
Having coached Dolanjski while they were both with the Timmins Eagles, of the NOBHL, Rock assistant coach James Daschuk is quite familiar with the 5-11, 185 pound blue-liner.
“Dolanjski is a very smart kid,” Daschuk said.
“He is a guy you know is going to work hard. He is a very proud hockey player and he hates to lose. He always wants to win and I think that shows in his work ethic.
“Even in practice, he is always giving it 110%. He never takes a drill off. He is always going as hard as he can while he is on the ice.
“If he ever makes a mistake out there on the ice, it isn’t from a lack of trying.”
Before signing with the Gold Miners, Dolanjski spent the 2015-16 with the Great North Midget League’s Timmins Majors (34, 5-16-21, 20).
As a minor midget in 2014-15, he spent the majority of the year with the Ottawa Jr. 67S (29, 5-5-10, 8), but also got in a pair of games with the Majors (2, 0-0-0, 0).
“We played against him 10 times last year,” Daschuk said.
“Making the jump to the NOJHL can be extremely difficult, but I know coach Lafleur always spoke pretty highly about him.”
Last year, with the Gold Miners, Dolanjski focused on the defensive aspect of his game — something that should complement the Rock’s defence-first approach this coming season.
“From what I can remember of his time with the Eagles, he is probably the kind of guy who can play some power-play minutes and also kill off some penalties,” Daschuk said.
“He is certainly a guy who can play effectively five-on-five, so that brings some flexibility to our roster.”
Dolanjski still has three years of Junior ‘A’ eligibility, including the upcoming 2017-18 NOJHL campaign.
“He is still a relatively young guy and he is going to keep on getting better,” Daschuk said.
“He is the type of kid who constantly wants to get better and that’s one of the things we are excited about — his up side, as he continues to develop.”
Playing against the Rock last season, Dolanjski certainly didn’t go out of his way to make friends with any of his new teammates.
“I can remember a few of our guys coming off the ice and swearing,” Daschuk said.
“He was playing in-your-face hockey and getting noticed out there. He isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he can get under your skin and play a little bit rugged. He is in good shape and he is a strong kid.”
Dolanjski can be described as a smooth-skating, puck-moving blue-liner.
“His skating is one of his strengths,” Daschuk said.
“He also has the ability to jump into the play and create that extra little bit of offence when necessary. A lot of teams do that now, enter the zone with four guys.”
This will be Planetta’s third stint with the Rock, who originally acquired him from the OHA Gold Mavericks (25, 9-6-15, 70), of the OEMHL, prior to the start of the 2015-16 NOJHL campaign — the team’s first back in Timmins.
Playing mainly on the team’s fourth line, Planetta (23, 2-6-8, 18) started the season with the Rock, but was eventually released.
He went on to finish up the year with the St. John’s Maple Leafs (13, 7-3-10, 10), of the NLMMHL.
“We are really happy to have Tyler back,” Daschuk said.
“When he was here the first time, he kind of got caught in a numbers game. He was still a midget-age player at that time and sometimes older guys beat you out, maybe you aren’t quite ready.
“It probably wasn’t the best fit for us at the time. His role during his first year was mainly playing on our fourth line, so he didn’t get a lot of ice time.
“He is a great kid. I can’t say enough good things about him. He never complained. He just wanted to play hockey and be part of the Timmins Rock.”
That team first attitude is one of the reasons the Rock brought Planetta back partway through the 2016-17 campaign.
“He never let the name on the back of his jersey become more important than the name on the front of his jersey,” Daschuk said.
“He has always been willing to do whatever it takes, even if it was for only two shifts a game. He would work his butt off during those two shifts. He has always been a guy who works extremely hard.”
Partway through the 2016-17 season, with the Rock battling a string of injuries, Planetta (20, 0-3-3, 21) returned to Timmins, moving from forward to the blue-line.
“He plays for that logo on the front of our jersey and I have no doubt if we asked him to he would even put on the goalie pads and go our there and do the best he could,” Daschuk said.
“He hadn’t really played on the back end in a couple of years and he had a couple of struggles here and there, but that was what we asked of him. Some nights were difficult, but he never once complained.
“Whether his is playing forward, or defence, you know he is going to work really hard and at some point finish his check.”
Planetta’s second stint in the maroon, yellow and white of the Rock ended on Nov. 17 when he was traded to the French River Rapids in exchange for all-star goalie Albert Rogers.
With the Rapids, Planetta (29,2-4-6, 6) received a little more ice time, made the move back to the forward ranks and served as one of French River’s alternate captains.
“He is probably still going to be a banger and a crasher,” Daschuk said.
“That’s his strength and you have got to play to your strengths. We like the intensity he brings and we like his style of physical play. He is going to bring an element of toughness to our team, he is a fan favourite and the guys in our dressing room just love him.”
At 5-10, 220 pounds, Planetta should bring an element of size and toughness to the Rock’s forward lines.
Having a forward who can move back and play defence when the need arrives is definitely a bonus, as well.
After the Rapids’ season came to an end last season, Planetta returned to Timmins to cheer on his ex-teammates during the 2017 playoffs.
NOJHL NOTES — Dolanjski is just one of three defencemen the Gold Miners have moved in the past couple of days. They also traded 1997-birth-year blue-liner Evan Look (15, 0-7-7, 6) to the Cochrane Crunch and 1998-birth-year D-man Michael Fradette (42, 1-3-4, 40) to Battlefords North Stars, of the SJHL, both in return for player-development fees … The Gold Miners have also made a couple of additions to their roster, picking up 1998-birth-year blue-liner Benjamin Lamm (25, 3-10-13, 10) from the Fox Motors U18, of the T1EHL, and 1999-birth-year defender Calvin Chartrand (44, 4-10-14, 45) from the Waterloo Siskins, of the GOJHL, both in exchange for player-development fees. Chartrand picked up four games of NOJHL experience while playing with the GNML’s New Liskeard Cubs … The Elliot Lake Wildcats had traded 1998-birth-year defenceman Damian Figueira (49, 2-18-20, 86) to the Kemptville 73’s, of the CCHL, for a player-development fee … The Rayside-Balfour Canadians have shipped 1998-birth-year D-man Dakotah Woods (45, 2-7-9, 37), a Chapleau native, to the Amherst Ramblers, of the MHL, for a player-development fee.