By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Marcus Blackned-Rabbitskin was a last-minute addition to the training camp roster of the Timmins Rock, but it didn’t take long for the 18-year-old Mistissini, Que., native to make a positive impression.
“At first when I was watching Marcus play, I thought he has got to get more aggressive but I think he is just so smooth, it makes him look a little nonchalant on the ice,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“He reads the play well. He sees the play well. His reactions are phenomenal. There is no panic zone for him, with or without the puck.
“He is always in motion out there and he has a lot of skills. He is a kid we are hoping we can really bring along and help develop.”
Blackned-Rabbitskin (23, 35-23-58, 6) spent the 2015-16 season with the Bears de la Nation Crie, a Midget ‘BB’ squad, but he has not looked out of place in training camp or either exhibition contest.
“He played organized hockey last year, but not at the highest level,” Gagne said.
“It will be a bit of an adjustment for him, but he is a smart kid. Once he gets acclimatized to our league and starts playing with instincts, he is going to be a really nice player. His offensive upside is incredible.”
Rock fans got to see that potential first hand Saturday night when Blackned-Rabbitskin stole the puck from a Gold Miners defender while playing shorthanded, walked to the front of the net and scored a pretty goal — his second in as many exhibition contests.
“He just undressed that Gold Miner on that shorthanded goal,” Gagne said.
“That was a beautiful play.”
The Rock have also signed 17-year-old forward Stewart Parnell (34, 19-11-30, 38), who was scheduled to play for the Timmins Majors this season.
“He is a really nice player,” Gagne said.
“He is a tough kid and he works hard. During the two exhibition games we played, we brought in a few things from our program and he was really conscientious about completing his assignments. He knew what we were asking of him and he completed the tasks. That’s half the battle right there.
“He has got a will to win and plays hard every time he is out on the ice. He is going to be a good addition to our team.”
Parnell, a 5-11 and 165 pound Timmins native, suffered a lower-body injury early Saturday night’s 4-1 exhibition win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, it isn’t expected he will be out of the lineup long.
With only five true defencemen in camp, the Rock have acquired 20-year-old blue-liner Brendan Campbell (8, 0-1-1, 12) from the Ridge Meadows Flames, of the PIJHL.
At 6-3 and 190 pounds, Campbell, who hails from Cloverdale, B.C., should bring an element of size to the Rock blue-line.
“He is a great hockey player who really moves the puck well,” Gagne said.
“He has a good shot and he will be one of the anchors on our power play. He is going to log a lot of minutes defensively, as well. Is a player who is capable of playing in all three zones and he is an outstanding player. We are really happy to have him joining our team.”
Campbell, a right-handed shooting blue-liner, also spent part of the 2015-16 campaign with the Langley Knights (25, 4-26, 124), of the PIJHL, and the Surrey Eagles (8, 0-0-0, 2), of the BCHL.
It is expected Campbell will be in Timmins sometime later this week or early next week to begin practising with the Rock in preparation for the NOJHL team’s home opener on Saturday, Sept. 10, against the Gold Miners.