By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Timmins Rock fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the NOJHL squad’s new stud defenceman Brendan Campbell in action during Saturday night’s home opener at the McIntyre Arena will have to wait a little while longer to see him make his debut in the maroon, gold and white.
Campbell (8, 0-1-1, 12), acquired from the Ridge Meadows Flames, of the PIJHL, will have to serve a four-game suspension picked up for a hitting-to-the-head penalty he incurred during last year’s playoffs.
The Cloverdale, B.C., native took part in his first practice with his new Rock teammates Tuesday afternoon as the team continues to get ready for Saturday night’s home opener against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena.
“I like to think of myself as a good skater who likes to move the puck out of my own zone and play the body,” said the 20 year old, who stands 6-3 and weighs in at 190 pounds.
“I am just looking to contribute in any way I can really.”
Campbell, who also spent parts of the 2015-16 season with the Langley Knights (25, 4-26, 124), of the PIJHL, and the Surrey Eagles (8, 0-0-0, 2), of the BCHL, does not try to pattern his game after any particular NHL players.
“I just look to go out there and play whatever role the team needs me to play,” he said.
Even though Campbell brings with him a four-game suspension and accumulated 138 minutes in penalties in his three stops last season, he is a well-rounded blue-liner and not your typical tough guy.
“I had a few hitting-to-the-head penalties and they kind of added up into a suspension with the last one,” he said.
The Rock have had success in the past recruiting players from the Flames, including current captain Jordan Rendle, who hails from Surrey, B.C.
“I talked to Jordan quite a bit before I came out here,” Campbell said.
“It’s nice to have somebody from back home on the team who can show me around and help me acclimatize myself to a new city.
“I knew a few other players from the Flames, like (Joe) Olson and (Andrew) Castagna, who came out here, as well.”
Campbell impressed Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne and the rest of his staff before he had even stepped onto the ice for his first practice Tuesday.
“You can tell, he is really mature and he has great size,” Gagne said.
“He is in great shape. He reminds me a little bit of Joe Olson.”
Campbell will have plenty of time to become acclimatized with the Rock program as he practises with his new teammates for a couple of weeks before getting into a game.
If all goes according to plan, Campbell will make his debut in a Rock uniform on Sunday, Sept. 25, against the Voodoos in Powassan.
His first home game in a Rock uniform would be on Thursday, Sept. 28, when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena.
With Campbell banished to the press box until then, Gagne continues to tinker with his blue-line.
Kyle Levis (39, 4-14-18, 37), entering his third year in the NOJHL, has made the move from forward to defence and played well in both of the Rock’s exhibition victories over the Gold Miners.
“He has really been buying into it and doing all of the assignments,” Gagne said.
“We are going to be pairing him with Campbell in practice to help him out a little bit.
Levis is enjoying his transition to the blue-line and is happy to be able to help out the team any way he can.
“The biggest adjustment I have had to make so far is trying to play more conservative,” he said.
“Instead of attacking the other team, I am sitting back and watching my teammates do it. There is also the positioning and having to skate backwards.
“(Rock assistant coach James Daschuk) Dazzer is always telling me to resist my offensive instincts and to stay back and pick my times for getting involved in the rush.”
Levis feels his speed is the biggest asset that will help him make a smooth transition from forward to defence.
“Having said that, I have to really make sure I don’t get myself out of position and that I pick my times, like Dazzer is always trying to tell me,” he said.
Levis demonstrated during the pair of exhibition games against the Gold Miners an aptitude for taking his man in front of the Rock net.
“Our other defencemen, including Nick Hautanen, have really been showing me the ropes,” he said.
Saturday night’s contest will be Levis’ third in the NOJHL and he does not anticipate having any butterflies because he will be playing a new position.
“I feel pretty confident heading into my third year in the league,” he said.
“Sure, playing defence is a little bit different, but it’s still the same game.”
The Rock also have another converted forward, Tyler Planetta (23, 2-6-8, 18), who was with the team at the start of the 2015-16 season, in camp looking to earn a spot on the blue-line.
“Tyler had been a defenceman for more most of his hockey career,” Gagne said.
“It was only the last couple of years that he had moved up to play forward.”
With the Rock last season, Planetta spent time on both the third and fourth lines.
The 18-year-old native of Goulds, Nfld., brings an element of size (5-9, 209 pounds) and grit to the equation.
“We just need to get him in shape a little bit,” Gagne said.
“He is a tough kid and he has good skills. He has got a good shot and he finishes his checks. He competes and he moves the puck well.”
Planetta is confident he can make the adjustment back to the blue-line.
“I know Paul’s system and I know the guys,” he said.
“A lot of the guys who are back from last year are helping me out. When I was at the Ontario Hockey Academy, down in Cornwall, I played defence on the minor midget team for a good season and a bit.”
Playing on the third and fourth line last season, Planetta’s role was to get in hard on the forecheck and create chaos in the other team’s zone.
“On defence, I will be looking to shut down forwards from the other team and clear bodies out from the front of the net,” he said.
“I will be trying to make sure we move the puck quickly out of our zone, as well.”
Planetta hopes his ability to play two different positions will help him lock up a spot on the Rock roster heading forward.
“If we are short a few guys up front, I wouldn’t mind helping out in that role again,” he said.
“If they need me to play defence, that’s what I will do.”
After being cut by the Rock last season, Planetta returned to Newfoundland, where he finished the year playing major midget with the St. John’s Maple Leafs.
“We won the league and then we went to the Atlantic championships,” he said.
ROCK NOTES — Goaltender Bradley Dobson, who had been in camp with the Rock before heading south to attend camp with the Niagara Ice Dogs, of the OHL, has opted to sign with the Smith Falls Bears, of the CJHL, instead of returning to Timmins … The Rock are continuing to search for billet families. Anyone interested in helping out or who wants more information should email firstname.lastname@example.org … The Gold Miners continue to fine tune their roster in preparation for the start of the regular season, as they have acquired forward Stavros Soilis, who has previous NOJHL experience with both the Powassan Voodoos and the Cochrane Crunch. He spent parts of last season with the Port Hope Panthers (7, 4-2-6, 6), of the EBJCHL, the Alexandria Glens (29, 15-13-28, 21), of the CCHL, and the Kanata Lasers (9, 1-1-2, 2), of the CCHL.