The Timmins Rock will welcome back forward Cameron Kosurko for his second season in the NOJHL. As a rookie in 2019-20, the Uxbridge native showed a great deal of promise at both end of the ice. Even though he was just 16 years old, coach Corey Beer entrusted him with a key checking assignment during the abbreviated East Division semi-final series against the Hearst Lumberjacks. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
The Timmins Rock are looking forward to having one of their most promising young stars back in the lineup for the 2020-21 NOJHL campaign.
And if newcomer Kyle Caron — cousin of former Rock blue-liner/forward Phil Caron — proves to be half as good as Cameron Kosurko was in his 16-year-old season, the team’s future might look even brighter.
Kosurko (53, 12-14-26, 20), a right-hand shooting forward from Uxbridge, came to the Rock from the Central Ontario Wolves, of the ETAHL U16, after being drafted by the Sudbury Wolves 197th overall in the 10th round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
It didn’t take him long to make an impact, as he had a goal and an assist in his first game in the Rock lineup — a 4-1 home-ice win over the French River Rapids in front of almost 1,200 fans.
Like most, if not all, 16 year olds playing in the NOJHL, that instant success was followed by plenty of ups and downs as the campaign progressed, but fans could clearly see what attracted Rock and Wolves officials to the youngster.
Coach Corey Beer is among Kosurko’s biggest fans and he is happy he will get to see him continue his development in a Rock uniform this season.
“Cam, for me, is a guy who right from Day 1 of training camp had this mentality of ‘I am going to show everybody how good I can be, day-in and day-out,’” he said.
“His work ethic is just off the charts. He was a real skill guy in Minor Midget ‘AAA’ and then he found himself, due to having older guys on the team, playing penalty kill, playing a centre role where he has to cover guys defensively.
“Game 1 of the playoffs (a 5-2 win over the Lumberjacks) he was on a matchup line against (Max) Griffioen, the Hearst captain, and he played 15 minutes against him.
“I don’t know of too many teams that would want to put a 16 year old up against the other team’s captain and we did it without even blinking.
“It was incredible and he held him to an even rating in that game.”
Not bad against a player who averaged more than a point a game and finished 11th in the NOJHL scoring race during the regular season.
“I think Cam is going to absolutely explode this year,” Beer said.
“He knows what to do and he works his tail off. He has got sneaky skill on him and yet he is a bit of a bulldog down low.
“He can make plays in tight areas.
“For whatever reason, guys who come into this program who are one-dimensional skill guys start adding in different traits to their game and become 200-foot players.
“You don’t have to look any further than Cam Kosurko, at 16 last year, who was one of our better two-way players.
“He did the right things, night-in and night-out. I think this year we are going to see the full package in terms of the offence coming out of him, too.
“That is not a knock on what he did last year, because he still had a great year offensively.”
Indeed, Kosurko matched his goal output from his final year with the Central Ontario U16 squad and doubled his assist total.
“My first year in the NOJHL was a great experience,” he said.
“I learned a lot from the coaching staff and the other players. We had a really tight group.
“I am looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Kosurko is confident the things he learned during his rookie season will make him a better player in 2020-21.
“Early in the year, I found it difficult adjusting to the speed of the game and the size of the players,” he said.
“The systems we use are pretty complicated, as well. I kind of had to work through that, to get it down pat.
“Once I got that under my belt, I started to feel more comfortable.
“Now, heading into my second year, I am a lot more confident and ready to go. I am looking forward to having the best year I can.”
Given Beer’s almost constant mixing and matching of lines, it is safe to say Kosurko played with just about every other forward — and maybe even a few converted blue-liners — at some point during the 2019-20 campaign.
“We have our systems, so regardless of who you are playing with, you know where to go,” he said.
“Playing with everyone in practices or during games, you get to see their styles and tendencies so it is not too hard to find them (with a pass).”
Despite the juggling, Kosurko spent a lot of time on a line with Riley Robitaille and Zach Smith and he was also a frequent linemate of Riley Brousseau.
“I played with those three guys quite a bit,” he said.
“I started off the year playing the wing and it doesn’t matter to me. I like playing centre, that’s what I grew up playing.
“Just past half way through the year, Beersy gave me a shot playing centre and I kind of went with it.”
Given the Rock will have up to 14 guys from last year’s squad back in the lineup, Kosurko is confident they will be able to pick up where they left off last season.
“That is what we are aiming for and we will see how it goes,” he said.
“We had quite a tight group last season and all the new guys we are bringing in are great hockey players.”
Kosurko played three or four years with Henry Brock, one of the new Rock forwards.
“I know him pretty well and we are pretty good friends,” he said.
“I can’t wait for him to come up. Hopefully, I will get the chance to play with him again.
“I know (new Rock blue-liner) Bode Dunford from hockey, too.”
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been minimal on Kosurko’s off season.
“I am pretty lucky because I have a gym set up at home,” he said.
“I have been doing my workouts when I wake up every morning, or whenever I can.
“I guess everyone has been affected in terms of getting on the ice, but that has been the only thing it has impacted, for me.”
Now that arenas across the province have begun to open up again, that situation has changed.
“I have been on the ice once a week for the past month or so at a private rink,” Kosurko said.
With the Wolves still holding his OHL rights, the forward expects to attend training camp with them in Sudbury — at some point.
“I just don’t know the exact dates at this point,” he said.
“We will see what happens.”
One of Kosurko’s new Rock teammates, goalie Gavin McCarthy, is also a Sudbury Wolves draft pick, haven been taken in the second round of the 2020 OHL U18 Priority Selection.
“I will get to see him there,” he said.
“That will be good.”
Meanwhile, the younger Caron (31, 13-7-20, 8), a left-hand shooting forward, comes to the Rock from his hometown Cambridge Hawks, of the Alliance U16.
At 5-10 and 158 pounds, he is similar in stature to his cousin, who will be suiting up for Hällefors IK, of the Swedish Second Division, in 2020-21.
“He is a guy who was overlooked in the (OHL) Priority Selection, but nothing changes about us viewing him as a player,” Beer said.
“(Former Rock forward) Keegan McMullen was the last pick in the draft (taken 300th overall by the Peterborough Petes in the 15th round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection).
“Was he deserving of that, absolutely not. Kyle Caron, did he deserve to be passed over because he played on a weaker team, in our opinion, no.”
So, the OHL’s loss is the Rock’s gain.
“He has a great skill set and he is built very well for a 16 year old, already,” Beer said.
“He will have to try and hold up against the rigors of being a 16 year old in Junior ‘A’ hockey.
“That’s always a challenge, but I think what we are going to get is a player very similar to what Mully was in terms of his skill set and speed.
“He comes from the same kind of Cambridge program, too, so we are really excited.
“We think he is a guy who can come in here and offer a little bit of offence right off the hop.
“Hopefully, he will be able to translate a skilled game into Junior ‘A’ hockey.
“The benefit for him is it won’t matter what line he is playing on because we all play the same way on every single line.
“He won’t have to go out there and play dump and chase, and grind it out. He will be given an opportunity to play to his skill set.”
The coach has been impressed with the younger Caron’s maturity at such a young age, as well.
“He speaks very well and when you talk to him it is almost like he knows what to expect,” Beer said.
“We send our new guys game film and show them different things we do so they can kind of picture themselves in those roles.
“For Kyle, having a relative who has already been through it, especially with our team, is an added bonus.
“I think his skill set matches us perfectly and it is going to be a great fit.”
Caron feels his game is a lot like his cousin’s, although he is a left-hand shot.
“I am a really fast, skilled player,” he said.
“I have lots of speed and I see the ice really well.”
Growing up, Caron tried to pattern his game after former NHL sniper Pavel Bure, which on the surface might sound a little strange given The Russian Rocket retired after the 2002-03 season — a year before he was born.
“I feel I play a lot like him and I try to model my game after him, with his speed, his shot and everything he does,” he said.
“Even though he doesn’t play anymore, I watch a lot of his old highlights.
“If there is a player who plays today I try to model my game after, it is Nathan MacKinnon.”
Caron is flexible when it comes to the three possible forward positions he might be able to play with the Rock.
“I have played centre my whole life, but I also like playing wing,” he said.
“As a winger, you get lots of breaks, but it doesn’t really matter. I will play wherever the coach wants me to play.”
Caron is coming off a season in which he scored almost twice as many goals as he collected assists, but he doesn’t necessarily consider himself a shoot-first kind of forward.
“It depends what the scenario is on the ice,” he said.
“Most times, I like to create a play and, if a guy is open, hit him, but if I have a shot, I will take it because I think I have a pretty good shot, also.”
While Caron was born and raised in Cambridge, he has plenty of connection to Timmins.
“My mom and my dad both grew up in Timmins,” he said.
“All of my grandparents and most of my family are in Timmins, as well, so we would go there two or three times a year.
“I really like it up there and I have lots of connections.”
The fact the Rock are coming off such as successful season, with so many veterans returning to the lineup also contributed to Caron’s decision to move north to continue his hockey career.
“They have a great team and I am really excited to play there,” he said.
“It is one of the best Tier 2 Junior ‘A’ teams in Ontario, so it is going to be great. I can’t wait for things to get started.”
Caron is looking forward to honing his skills on the defensive side of the puck with the Rock.
“Corey is really good at that and I think he is going to be able to help me out a lot with that,” he said.
“I was always just used to bringing the puck up, end to end, when I played, so it is definitely going to be an adjustment.”
During one of his visits to Timmins, Caron had a chance to see his cousin and the Rock play a game.
“It is definitely a really physical, fast-paced league,” he said.
“It will be a bit of an adjustment at first. You can tell there is a big jump from Minor Midget ‘AAA’ to Junior ‘A’, for sure.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Caron’s off season has been pretty uneventful.
“I have a gym I go to four times a week, with a personal trainer and three other guys,” he said.
“I shoot lots of pucks in my basement and I am always stickhandling. I also have Rollerblades.
“In terms of getting on the ice, there are a few places I am going to be going to soon.”
ROCK 2020-21 ROSTER — Goalies (2): Tyler Masternak, Gavin McCarthy; Defence (5): Eric Moreau, Brendan Boyce, Evan Beaudry, Bode Dunford, Félix Cadieux-Fredette; Forwards (8): Derek Seguin, Josh Dickson, Tyler Gilberds, Cameron Kosurko, Tyler Schwindt, Henry Brock, Nicholas Pigeon, Kyle Caron.