Anderson sets sail with Océanic

Timmins Rock defenceman Josh Anderson, shown here in action during an NOJHL game against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 25, has been picked up by the Rimouski Océanic, of the QMJHL. The Nestleton, Ont., native, whose Junior ‘A’ rights will be retained by the Rock, is scheduled to report to Rimouski on Wednesday, Dec. 27. The Océanic will resume the second half of their QMJHL schedule on Thursday, Dec. 28, when they travel to Shawinigan for a game with the Cataractes. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

TIMMINS – Timmins Rock defenceman Josh Anderson received an early Christmas present and it just might be the best one he has received in his 18 years on this planet.

It was announced on Thursday the Rock have transferred his rights to the Rimouski Océanic and he has signed with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s top team.

Currently at home with his family in Nestleton (near Oshawa), Ont., for the Christmas break, Anderson found out about the move following the Rock’s 3-2 loss to the Powassan Voodoos Sunday afternoon at the McIntyre Arena.

“It’s a great opportunity and I am really excited to be able to move up to the next level,” he said.

“My family was pretty excited when they found out, as well. It is pretty shocking. It is really special and they are really proud of me.”

Obviously Rimouski’s management has liked what they have seen of Anderson’s game since he put on a Rock jersey following an Oct. 13 trade that brought him to Timmins from the Cobourg Cougars, of the OJHL.

“They said they like my puck movement, my smarts and my footwork,” he said.

Anderson will be joining an Océanic (22-8-4-0) squad currently tied with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (23-7-2-0) for top spot in the QMJHL’s overall standings.

Rimouski’s blue-line currently includes Chase Stewart, Charle-Edouard D’Astous, Anthony D’Amours, Wilson Forest, Christopher Inniss, Vincent Martineau and Tyler Higgins.

The 6-1, 165-pound blue-liner is scheduled to report to Rimouski on Wednesday, Dec. 27, as the Océanic — like the Rock — are currently on their Christmas break.

The QMJHL squad is scheduled to return to action on Thursday, Dec. 28, when they will travel to Shawinigan for a game with the Cataractes.

Anderson knows what it will take for him to stick with the Océanic long term.

“I will have to make sure I keep my game on point,” he said.

“I will have to be focused on hockey and getting better. Every day, other guys at that level are getting better.”

It will be Anderson’s second taste of major junior hockey.

“I went to the Oshawa Generals (OHL) camp two years ago,” he said.

“The speed of the game is a big factor. Everything is a little bit quicker. You just have to make sure you keep your head up. Guys at that level are more skilled.”

Obviously, there is going to be a cultural adjustment for Anderson.

“My French is going to need some work, but I will adapt after being there for a little bit,” Anderson said, with a chuckle.

“I am confident I will get used to it and everything will be OK.

“Rimouski (population 46,860) is a lot like Timmins in the sense it is a smaller town and they get lots of fans.”

Anderson feels the trade that brought him to Timmins and the chance to play for Rock coach Corey Beer did a lot to get him ready to make the transition to the QMJHL.

“Coming to Timmins was a little nerve wracking at the start, but Corey, (Rock GM) Kevin (Peever) and the guys did a great job of comforting me and making me feel welcome,” he said.

“I really enjoyed hanging around the rink with the guys. It was a really great experience playing Junior ‘A’ hockey here while being away from home.”

Anderson still has two years of junior eligibility following this season and he intends to make the most of this opportunity with the Océanic, but if things don’t work out at the next level he would return to the Rock in a heart beat.

“Definitely,” he said.

“I would like to thank the Timmins Rock, the players and the coaching staff, for helping to develop my game and helping me along the way. I learned a lot during my time in Timmins.”

The Rock will retain Anderson’s Junior ‘A’ rights and would welcome him back if things do not work out in Rimouski.

While Anderson will be in a different province, he still plans to check out the NOJHL and Rock websites on a regular basis to keep track of how his team and his teammates are during in the second half of the season.

“Hopefully, the boys will be able to finish strong and get a good playoff run going,” he said.

“I wish them all the best.”

Not to put the cart before the horse, but if Anderson does well in the QMJHL, could he see himself one day getting drafted by an NHL club?

“It has crossed my mind once or twice, but I don’t want to think too far ahead,” he said.

On the one hand, Beer realizes the loss of Anderson (23, 1-7-8, 40) — who regularly played up to 30 minutes a night, in all situations — will leave a huge hole on the Rock blue-line, but on the other he knows part of the job of any Junior ‘A’ franchise is to help their players reach the next level.

“It leaves a massive void in our lineup, but we are extremely happy Josh was able to come in here and in a short period of time have his skills and his game progress to the level where he was attracting major junior attention,” he said.

“I kind of felt all along that Josh had the ability to play at a higher level, whether it be major junior hockey or the NCAA.

“He certainly put in the hard work. We needed a high-end defenceman and he was the kind of guy who could fill that role.

“We are very happy to see him move up.”

Anderson was not the biggest D-man on the Rock blue-line, but showed an ability to handle the physical demands the position requires and also looked to have some upside to his offensive game.

“Those are the kind of things any major junior team is going to look for,” Beer said.

“He has a good frame on him, so I am confident he will be up for the rigours of major junior and his skating ability is off the charts. In a league where you have to be able to keep up with NHL draft picks and top end players, skating is at a premium.

“Josh certainly brings that element and I have no doubt he is going to have a great impact for Rimouski.”

Even though the Océanic are tied for first place in the QMJHL’s overall standings, Beer was not surprised to see them reach out to Anderson.

“They have some veteran defencemen on their roster, you can never have too many good D,” he said.

“That is something we found out with the injury bug we have endured. I think they are safe-guarding themselves, making sure they have a veteran defenceman of his quality in the lineup.

“He will get a quick sense of what it takes to be a good major junior D-man with a quality team like they have. I have no doubt that Josh will go in and help their D corps.”

Prior to their arrival in Timmins, Beer coached Anderson when both were with the Cougars’ development team.

“He is a terrific young man and he comes from a great family,” he said.

“Bob Anderson (Josh’s father) talked to Tyler Gilberds’ family to tell them what a great job we are doing and that this would be a good spot for Tyler to develop. We owe a lot to that family.”

Regardless of whether or not the Rock are able to bring in a new D-man prior to the CHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline, the team might have to look at sharing Anderson’s minutes among its existing defenders.

“We should get Jared Hester and Eric Paquette back at some point after the Christmas break,” Beer said.

“They are two 20 year olds who will come back into the lineup and help us. So, it might not be one guy upping his game, but rather a group effort.

“Grant McClellan has done some tremendous work for us and I think he is the only player on the roster who has gotten into every game. He has been tremendous for us.

“Shawn Sloan keeps progressing andJun Yi (Frank) Zhong is still learning the system. Will Caston, at 16 years old, keeps surprising and keeps getting better.

“We are pretty excited about the group we have coming back on the blue-line in the new year. We are confident we will be able to do a little damage down the stretch. Hopefully, will be able to surprise some teams in the second half of the season.”