The Timmins Rock have continued to bolster their offence for the 2020-21 NOJHL campaign, announcing the return of Tyler Gilberds and the addition of Henry Brock.
Gilberds (55, 18-18-36, 58), a right-hand shooting forward who turned 19 on June 10, was reacquired by the Rock from the Toronto Patriots, of the OJHL, prior to the start of the 2019-20 season and developed into a strong secondary scoring option as the campaign progressed.
The Georgetown native was originally acquired by the Rock from the East Division-rival Powassan Voodoos part way through the 2017-18 season and scored arguably the biggest goal since the franchise relocated back to Timmins from Iroquois Falls — the Game 6 overtime winner that sent his former team packing from the 2018 playoffs.
After an off-season trade, he spent the entire 2018-19 campaign with the Patriots (49, 4-12-16, 88), however.
At 6-2 and 188 pounds, he brings a nice combination of size and speed to the Rock lineup.
In his two full seasons in the NOJHL — including his time with the Voodoos — Gilberds (107, 29-32-61, 123) has put up solid numbers.
Like all of his returning teammates, Gilberds is anxious to get back on the ice and put the disappointing COVID-19-shortened playoffs behind him.
“It just gives us that much more motivation,” he said.
Despite the way the playoffs ended, Gilberds was pleased with his first full season in a Rock uniform.
“I took some huge steps, personally, in my game, putting a few more points on the board, but honestly with our system and the way our team plays (individual) points don’t really matter,” he said.
“They just came from being in the right spot and that is one of the things I tried working on last year, sticking to the system and doing things the right way.
“If you do that, the points will come.”
Gilberds is determined to build upon that success this season, while hopefully helping the Rock win a championship.
“I have been trying to train every single day,” he said.
“I think working on the mental part of the game over the summer is going to be a huge part of my preparations, as well.
“Being able to bounce back from a bad shift or a bad play is going to be huge in the long run, especially if we want to go to the Dudley (Hewitt Cup).”
Like most players, Gilberds’ normal off-season workout routine has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the gyms not open, that was kind of my go-to for training,” he said.
“I try to get into the gym and lift those weights and I don’t really have any home weights yet so I have kind of made my own make-shift weights with like an old broken hockey stick and milk jugs or paint cans.”
Technology has allowed Gilberds to keep in touch with his returning teammates and some of the new players this off season.
“The guys have been kind of getting together on Zoom calls and letting the new guys know what to expect.”
Rock coach Corey Beer knows 2019-20 was a big year in terms of the development of Gilberds’ game and he is looking forward to what he can accomplish this season.
“I think last year was the biggest step in Gibby’s hockey life,” he said.
“He took on ownership of what had happened before when he was young, 16 years old, and immature.
“He would get mad at certain things and disgruntled, but when he came back up it was like looking at a different man. He was focused and mentally sharp.
“He accepted accountability for his mistakes. He wanted to be part of our leadership and help guys out that way.”
The coach was particularly impressed with Gilberds’ contributions to the team’s offence, in limited opportunities.
“He had 18 goals last year and only played sparingly on the power play,” Beer said.
“He turned himself into a penalty killer last year, as well. He is another guy that if you would have said, ‘hey do you ever think you would play on the penalty kill,’ it never would have crossed his mind.
“In terms of what he can offer this year, he is a guy who is going to make a big jump and we are super excited to have him back.
“He is a great kid, easy to get along with in the room.”
The coach feels if Gilberds uses his size effectively, he will be hard to stop.
“He is another guy who is 6-2 or 6-3, he skates like the wind and he has a wicked shot and, oh by the way now he is going to play good defence against you, too,” Beer said.
“How do you contain him? It is a pretty dangerous combination and at age 19 I think he is going to be a monster out there.”
Meanwhile, Brock, a 17-year-old left-hand shooting centre from Port Perry, comes to the Rock after being taken 44th overall in the third round of the 2020 OHL U18 Priority Selection by the Soo Greyhounds.
He spent the bulk of the 2019-20 campaign with the Ajax/Pickering Raiders (34, 13-12-25, 14), of the ETAHL U18, but also saw action with the OJHL’s Whitby Fury (5, 0-0-0, 10).
“We (Raiders) had a really good season and we were one game away from going to the OMHAs when the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” Brock said.
“Other than that, it was a great season and we had some great guys on our team.”
Given his hometown is less than a half-hour drive from Oshawa, it is only natural Brock would find his way onto Beer’s radar.
“I used to play baseball in Oshawa and the coach of that team is buddies with Corey Beer,” Brock said.
“They (the Rock) got my contact info from him and asked me if I wanted to play in Timmins.”
At 6-0 and 159 pounds, Brock does not bring quite as much size to the Rock lineup, but he is more than willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“I am a two-way forward, but I concentrate a lot on the defensive side of the puck,” he said.
“I hate getting scored on, so I like defence, but I can also score a few goals when they are needed.”
When he was growing up, Brock tried to pattern his game after Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
“He is the same type of player, a two-way forward who concentrates on D,” he said.
“He does all the little things out there on the ice.”
Brock admitted with a chuckle, however, he is two or three Stanley Cups short of being considered in the same conversation as his favourite player.
Brock gave up baseball two years ago to focus full time on his hockey career.
“I was working in the summer, too, and I just wanted a little bit more free time.”
Like just about everybody, Brock’s summer this year has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I haven’t been able to find ice, yet, and it has been difficult to workout with gyms being closed,” he said.
“I don’t have that much equipment at my house, but today (June 22) was the first day a gym was open so I could go work out.”
Brock noted his parents are not too concerned with him playing so far away from home despite the COVID-19 situation.
“Both my parents are pretty excited I am getting an opportunity to come and play in Timmins,” he said.
“I don’t think they were going to kybosh that for any reason.”
Brock is familiar with at least one of his new Rock teammates.
“I know Cam Kosurko,” he said.
“I was buddies with him and grew up with him, played hockey against him when we were little, played with him on the Central Ontario Wolves for a couple of years
“Knowing a guy on the team gives me lots of confidence. It should allow me to ease in a lot better.”
Brock, who has never been to Timmins, admitted he might need a map to find his way to the city.
“Cam said the city is great and the fans are crazy,” he said.
“He said he got to sign autographs and stuff. Having a hockey card would be pretty cool.”
Beer is looking forward to seeing what Brock can do in a Rock uniform this season.
“Henry is another U18 pick, from the Soo, and a bigger body who will probably be a power forward for us,” he said.
“He is one of those guys, and I am being very careful here, who is a lot like Stewie Parnell was coming in at age 17.
“He does a lot of things right and makes the right plays. He is very good defensively, covering his man, doing his assignments, and then he has got this offence in him.
“He has got a heavy shot and he can provide scoring. Maybe he doesn’t have the big toe drag everyone looks at, but I just keep flashing back to how Stewie was at a younger age.”
And the coach sees even brighter things for Brock as his game adjusts.
“Once his game gets acclimated to Junior ‘A’, I think it is going to be a seamless transition for him.
“Of all the small details we put into effect, as a staff and the way we play, we are going to appreciate every single thing he does on the ice.”
The coach feels Brock can be effective at any of the three forward positions.
“He is probably going to find himself with penalty-killing assignments early on,” Beer said.
“He is going to be a guy, despite being 17 years old, I think it will be a big year ahead for him, in terms of what we can get out of him. I don’t think age is going to be a hindrance for him — especially from a strength standpoint. He is in great shape already.”