The Timmins Rock will be well represented at the Team Canada East selection camp to be held in advance of the 2019 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C., this December.
Three members of the Rock — forwards Derek Seguin and Keegan McMullen, as well as blue-liner Phil Caron — will be among a contingent of five NOJHL players invited to attend the camp at the Benson Centre in Cornwall Aug. 7-9, along with 39 other players from the OJHL, the CCHL, the LHJAAAQ and the MHL.
The other two NOJHL players invited to the camp are Soo Thunderbirds blue-liner Kobe Seguin and Rayside-Balfour forward Giordano Biondi.
Rock coach Corey Beer will for the second-straight year serve as an assistant coach on Martin Dagenais’ Team Canada East squad and the Timmins bench boss had a good deal of input into which players from his league were invited to try out for the team.
“Being in the league a few years now and getting to see the players, I have a bit more of an eye for who these guys are,” he said.
“I know their games inside and out, as opposed to the rest of our staff who get references from different coaches, or what not, but all five guys came very highly recommended — not only from myself, but from other coaches around the league, as well.
“Mark Grady (director of operations) and Marty Dagenais do their homework as good as anybody in terms of asking around and finding out which guys are the key contributors for teams.”
Beer is pleased to see the NOJHL and his own Rock organization so well represented among the players invited to try out for the squad.
“With the notoriety our league is getting, with having good young players, it is good to see,” he said.
“With our three guys, it is pretty special for our organization and I think it speaks to the development path we have been on here for three years now.
“Our young guys last year really made a good impact. Derek Seguin last year, as an 18 year old, had 64 points and 34 goals, which was pretty special, and we certainly expect Keegan McMullen to have a break-out campaign similar to what he had in the playoffs last year.”
Derek Seguin (52, 34-30-64) finished sixth in the NOJHL scoring race in 2018-19 and his goal total ranked him second to only the 40 netted by Thunderbirds sniper Lucas Theriault.
The 5-10, 176 pound left-hand shooting 2000-birth-year Timmins native continued his torrid pace in the 2019 playoffs (8, 3-10-13, 18).
“Obviously, Derek Seguin’s resume from last year included him going to the (CJHL) top prospects game,” Beer said.
“He played well there and actually played for Dan Sauvé, one of our other assistant coaches.
“Dan knows his game well and spoke very highly of Derek, as well.”
Now fully healed, the Rock captain is looking forward to getting a chance to show what he can do during the selection camp.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all, but it is a pleasant surprise, for sure,” Derek Seguin said.
He enjoyed getting a chance to play for Sauvé during the CJHL prospects game last season.
“There isn’t a lot of coaching at a prospects game,” Derek Seguin said.
“It is just a matter of going out there and doing what you do best, but Dan was very friendly and helpful. I chatted with him multiple times during the two days, just talking hockey.
“So, if I get the opportunity to play for him and Corey that would be awesome.”
As honoured as the Rock captain is to be invited to the selection camp, he is even more excited that McMullen and Caron will be attending, as well.
“Not only will I see two of my teammates there, I will also see some of the players I played with at the prospects game,” Derek Seguin said.
“I recognized a lot of names from there on the roster for the selection camp. They are a good group of guys and they all got along well.
While McMullen played on Derek Seguin’s wing during the 2018-19 NOJHL campaign, he is even more familiar with fellow Timmins native Caron.
“I played with Phil from the time we were in Atom through our Major Bantam year and then we parted ways and went our own route,” he said.
“So, we were together for a good five or six years.”
For the record, Derek Seguin is not related to the Thunderbirds D-man who will be at the selection camp, trying to earn a spot on the Canada East blue-line.
“I do get that question a lot, but no, we are not related,” he said, with a chuckle.”
Finally healthy, Derek Seguin put in a great deal of work over the summer and feels he is at the top of his game.
“Honestly, I think the key to earning a spot on the team will just be my work ethic,” he said.
“I think what I can do to separate myself is just the amount of work I am willing to put in and my work ethic when I am on the ice. My goal is just to go out, have fun and work as hard as I can.”
Getting a chance to wear the Canada East jersey, with the bright-red maple leaf on the chest would be a dream come true for Derek Seguin.
“When you are a competitor, you are never looking for the easy way,” he said.
“I welcome any competition I can get, whether it is during an international tournament or just a pick-up game.
“I am always looking to compete and it would just be unreal to be able to participate in a tournament like this one.
“It is any Canadian boy’s dream to throw on the Team Canada jersey and represent your country.
“That would be an honour.”
In addition to spending plenty of time in the gym this summer, Derek Seguin has also managed to find a little ice time, here and there.
“I did plenty of rehabbing with my trainer throughout the summer and I am back to 100%,” he said.
“I have been able to get on the ice, as well. I went down to stay with (Rock teammate) Rhys Chiddenton for a week and kind of just followed him around to all of his on-ice sessions. He has some good trainers on his side.
“We have also been driving out to New Liskeard to get some ice while I have been back in Timmins, as well.”
After playing on the same line for the majority of the 2018-19 campaign and the 2019 playoffs, Derek Seguin was not surprised to learn McMullen received an invitation to attend the selection camp.
“I am really proud of him,” he said.
“He has really come a long way after leaving home at 16 years old. He had a phenomenal season. He definitely deserves the accolades he is getting.”
McMullen, a 6-0, 165-pound, 2002-birth-year left-hand shooting Cambridge native, spent the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign (54, 15-16-31, 34) patrolling Derek Seguin’s left wing.
He took a giant leap forward, however, in the 2019 playoffs (9, 9-6-15, 2) as he finished seventh in the league in points — even though his Rock fell in the East Division semi-finals.
Even more impressive, only Theriault (13) and the Hearst Lumberjacks Max Johnson (12) scored more goals in the post season.
As one might expect, McMullen is pumped to attend the selection camp with his teammates.
“Obviously, it is pretty exciting,” he said.
“Having gone through last season, I heard about it and now that I have my name in there, it is a pretty awesome feeling.”
McMullen isn’t taking anything for granted just because his coach is an assistant on the team.
“I just need to show everybody else what I can do,” he said.
McMullen is also proud that two of his Rock teammates will be at the selection camp, as well.
“It just shows what we are doing in Timmins is paying off,” he said.
“We have a lot of great players in our organization.”
While McMullen spent the bulk of his rookie campaign in the NOJHL on the wing, Beer plans to see what he can do at centre this season.
“I think playing centre will help me use my speed a little bit more this season,” he said.
“It should allow me to control the game a little bit more, which should be good.”
Like most of his teammates, new and old, McMullen has been working hard this off season in preparation for the opening of the Rock training camp on Aug. 16.
“At the start of the off season it seemed like things were going really slow, but now time seems to be flying right by,” he said.
“I have been in the gym five times a week and on the ice five times a week, as well.
“I am really excited for the start of training camp.”
Caron, whom the Rock acquired from the GOJHL’s Cambridge Redhawks on July 12, is no stranger to the NOJHL.
The 5-8, 170-pound Timmins native turned in a stellar rookie campaign (53, 7-34-41, 18) with the Iroquois Falls Eskis (now the Hearst Lumberjacks) in 2016-17.
Following that season, Caron spent time with the Soo Greyhounds (25, 0-2-2, 6) and the Guelph Storm (1, 0-0-0, 0) in the OHL and the Gatineau Olympiques (6, 0-0-0, 0) in the QMJHL.
“Phil Caron obviously brings Major Junior experience to the equation and he averaged close to a point per game (21, 5-10-15, 22) in Junior ‘B’ last year,” Beer said.
The Timmins native was “super excited” to learn he had been invited to attend the selection camp.
“I am really looking forward to getting a chance to show off how much my game has developed and how I have grown as a player over the last few years,” Caron said.
“It will be good to get to compete with some of the top players in Canada East, as well as learn from the coaches and the other players at the camp.
“I am really looking forward to the opportunity.”
The blue-liner feels the opportunities he received in two Major Junior leagues has helped him hone his skills.
“It allowed me to develop a lot, although I may not have played that much,” Caron said.
“I was around a lot of players who have been drafted and signed by NHL teams, learning from them and getting better day by day.
“I learned a ton and I am looking forward to getting to training camp.”
Derek Seguin isn’t the only Rock player Caron has been teammates with during past campaigns.
“I have had a chance to play with Riley Robitaille and Stewart Parnell, as well as Riley Brousseau a little bit when I was in Bantam and he would get called up,” he said.
In addition, current Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was the head coach of the Eagles the two seasons Caron patrolled their blue-line.
“It will be nice to see him again and get a chance to learn more things from him,” he said.
“I am looking forward to it.”
To this point, Caron has not had an opportunity to play for Beer but he is looking forward to the chance to do so — with the Rock and hopefully with Canada East.
“Attending camp will be a great opportunity to try and get to know him better,” he said.
“I am really looking forward to getting his feedback and having him push me.”
Derek Seguin won’t be the only player Caron is familiar with at the Canada East selection camp.
“My D partner from last season in Cambridge, Mark Cooper, will also be at the camp, so it will be cool to kind of reunite with him,” he said.
“That should be exciting.”
Like Derek Seguin and McMullen, Caron has been putting in a lot of work this summer to ensure he will be in tip-top shape when training camp opens.
“I have been doing a lot of strength training, a lot of speed training and a ton of conditioning,” he said.
“I have also been doing a lot of mobility training, stretching and lots of core work, lots of balance and agility training. I have also been shooting a ton of pucks every day, working on my stick-handling and rollerblading.
“The list goes on and on. The summer has been really intense. My main focus has been to get better every day.”
With the ice just now going in at the McIntyre Arena, Caron has had to venture out of town to work on his skating.
“I have been making a few road trips to Rouyn-Noranda and for the past two weeks I have been going down to New Liskeard for some skates,” he said.
Biondi, a 2002-birth-year forward, turned in a solid rookie season (47, 15-17-32, 24) with the Canadians in 2018-19.
The 5-11, 170-pound left-hand shooting Sudbury native followed that up with an impressive playoff run (11, 2-5-7, 8).
“Giordano Biondi was a real good 16-year-old player last year with Rayside-Balfour,” Beer said.
“He kind of plays that good two-way game and he added more offensive flair to his overall game last season.
“He is one of those guys like Keegan McMullen, where as the season went on you realized age didn’t matter with him. He really got himself going and I think he is going to have a phenomenal season with the Canadians this year.
“He has his sights set pretty high this year, as a 17 year old.”
Kobe Seguin, a 2001-birth-year left-hand shooting blue-liner, was invited to the selection camp in 2018 while enjoying a solid rookie campaign (49, 1-9-10, 56) with the Thunderbirds.
In the 2019 playoffs (11, 0-3-3, 17), the 6-2 and 165-pound Corbeil, Ont., native continued his strong play.
“He is big and he skates really well,” Beer said.
“Kobe is probably more of a two-way defenceman than strictly an offensive guy, but he plays with a real good physical edge to his game.
“I thought he showed really well at the selection camp last year, too, and he was down to one of the final cuts.
“Both Kobe and Giordano play and real complete game and it is going to be real good to see them at camp.”
Being invited to take part in the tryout camp, of course, does not guarantee any of the NOJHL players a spot on the Canada East roster.
“This is just Step 1,” Beer said.
“How they play from now until the camp in December will, for the most part, dictate whether they will get the opportunity to make the squad, or not.”
Having served as an assistant coach with the squad in 2018, Beer has a pretty good idea of what the players will need to do to secure a spot on this year’s squad.
“The game is played at an incredible pace,” he said.
“There is a lot of speed and skill on display. You are dealing with guys who in some cases are high-end NHL draft picks.
“You look at Alex Newhook, who played for Canada West, he was the 16th overall pick (Colorado Avalanche). Vasily Podkolzin went 10th overall to Vancouver.
“Bobby Brink was the player of the tournament and he was a second rounder (34th overall, Philadelphia Flyers).
“I think the team from the United States had 11 guys taken in the NHL draft.
“There was such a great display of not only future NHL talent, but stars, during the tournament. To be quite honest, that is what you are matched up against.
“It really is a best-on-best tournament and it is incredible to be part of it.”
The first step, of course, will see the 44 players invited to the camp take to the ice in Cornwall, Aug. 7-9.
“They will take part in a couple of inter-squad games and a couple of practices,” Beer said.
“We will get to see these guys live up close and see how things go.
“In the past, there was always that Eastern Canada Cup which brought all the leagues together, but it is not happening this year so there will be a lot of importance put on the showcases.
“The NOJHL Showcase (Oct. 15-16, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.) will be a big spotlight for our guys, along with the one for the OJHL, the CCHL, the MHL and the LHJAAAQ.
“There will be a chance for us, as a staff, to get together at those events and get live eyes on all of these guys.
“There will be a lot of video watching for us and keeping tabs on guys, as well.”
ROCK NOTES — Only a few entries remain for the fourth-annual Timmins Rock NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Spruce Needles Golf Course on Thursday, Aug. 15. This year’s four-person scramble will feature former NHL players Darcy Tucker, Shayne Corson and Georges Laraque. Cost of entry is $125 per golfer, which includes 18 holes of golf, a chance to meet the former NHL stars, dinner and a silent auction. Accommodation will also be made for those not interested in golfing at a lower rate. Anyone interested in signing up should contact Rock president Ted Gooch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org … The third-annual Timmins Rock Comedy Night at École secondaire catholique Thériault on Thursday, Oct. 17, will feature America’s got Talent contestant Taylor Williamson, as well as Michelle Shaughnessy. Tickets, at a cost of $40, for the show will go on sale Tuesday.